STARKVILLE — It’s hard to say who missed Super Bulldog Weekend the most after COVID-19 wiped it out completely in 2020: businesses or the fans.
Golden Triangle businesses certainly longed for the yearly three-day April revenue generator after a year of economic hardship.
“People are so looking forward to the longstanding traditions and finally being able to celebrate this weekend,” said Paige Watson, the Starkville Greater Development Partnership Special Events and Projects Coordinator. “I think our restaurants and shops are all really excited to have the additional foot traffic and tourists this weekend.”
With vaccinations on the rise in Mississippi, businesses weren’t going to miss out. Josh Herrington, the owner of Starkville business Dunkington Art and Jewelry, said he spent his Thursday re-stocking his inventory and making more wine glasses, one of the store’s more popular items.
“I look at (Super Bulldog Weekend) as more of a mini Black Friday to an extent,” Herrington said. “It’s not as crazy as Black Friday, but there’s a lot of people in town, all the alumni come back and visitors from all over. It’s not drawing from Arkansas, Louisiana or Texas for a ballgame; it’s Mississippi. This is all Mississippi people that want to shop Mississippi and shop local and support everybody. Our sales are always really good when there’s a lot of people in town.”
Surrounding communities also receive a large economic boom from the weekend. Visit Columbus CEO and Executive Director Nancy Carpenter told The Dispatch she estimates Columbus will bring in around $650,000 on a conservative estimate, but that total could surpass $1 million.
Naturally, most of Super Bulldog Weekend centers around Mississippi State sports.
The Cannon Ford car dealership in Starkville started the weekend off by inviting former Mississippi State football standouts Jeffery Simmons and Tyre Phillips, both of whom are now in the NFL, to sign autographs for two hours Friday. More than a dozen children were in line waiting for the duo’s arrival, one donning a Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jameis Winston jersey.
Simmons, who plays for the Tennessee Titans, raised an eyebrow when he saw the young autograph seeker.
“Man, c’mon now, what is that?” Simmons told the child with a laugh before handing him a signed photo.
Simmons, Phillips and a host of other former players made an appearance at the MSU spring football game Saturday at Davis Wade Stadium. Ironically, Mississippi State football coach Mike Leach made a bit of history, becoming the first Bulldogs coach in recent memory to coach his first spring football game after he already completed his first fall season. The lower bowl on the east side of the stadium was nearly full with fans ringing cowbells, watching the white team emerge victorious in the annual Maroon and White scrimmage, 30-22.
With Gov. Tate Reeves recently signing an executive order that lifted all restrictions on outdoor events statewide, more than 10,000 fans flocked to Dudy Noble Field Friday for the series opener against Ole Miss.
It was apparent the rivalry was missed by Bulldog faithful.
“It’s two different years, man. We gotta pound Ole Piss and take them out,” Caledonia resident Shane Flowers said, using a pejorative nickname for the Bulldogs’ principal rival.
Sitting in his seat in the Left Field Lounge, Russ Rogers didn’t care that he was nearly hit by a batting practice home run shortly before the Bulldogs’ 5-2 win Friday.
“You have to pay attention out here,” he said with a laugh.
Rogers said he has been attending MSU baseball games since 1967. Now that he’s been vaccinated against COVID-19, he’s back again.
“It’s really nice (having this series back),” he said.
A 1992 and 1994 graduate of MSU, Bubba Morris made the trip to Starkville with his wife and daughter from their hometown of Stanton, Tennessee.
“There’s nowhere else I’d rather be on a weekend in April,” Morris said. “Super Bulldog and the Left Field Lounge experience is unlike anything out there. It’s like a football tailgate spread out over a whole baseball game.”