February 3, 2012 12:07:00 PM
STARKVILLE -- If residents hear a commotion around 4:30 p.m. in downtown Starkville today, there's no need for concern. It's Dudy Gras 6.5, the seventh annual parade and celebration signifying the start of Mississippi State University's baseball season.
Those wishing to participate in the parade should meet at Rick's Café on Highway 182 at 3:30 p.m. There is no entry fee.
The parade will begin west on Highway 182 before taking a left onto Washington Street, then turning onto Main Street and heading to Dudy Noble field.
The parade almost met its end before it even began in 2005. There were only five vehicles lined up to participate for that first parade, and the weather was against them.
"We had sleet and snow and decided to just cancel the parade that year, but before you knew it, we all found ourselves at Mugshots (a downtown restaurant), and we had our own little parade and party there around the restaurant at happy hour," said Hobie Hobart, chairman of the parade and a member of the Cowbellion Bulldogs. "That's where the '.5' comes in ... We figured we should get at least half credit for that first one, even if it wasn't an actual parade."
"It's all great, especially when the weather cooperates," said Dennis Joy, who has participated in the parade for four years. "The parade gets bigger and better every year, and this year I'm decorating my grill to ride in the parade."
Dudy Gras is organized by members of The Mystic Society of the Cowbellion Bulldogs, the group responsible for The Running of the Bulldogs and fundraisers benefiting the Red Cross and the family of former football player Nick Bell.
This year's Dudy Gras coincides with the 45th anniversary of Dudy Noble Field, where baseball fans who rent spaces during the season will occupy "Left Field Lounge" behind left field, filling the area with rigs, trucks, grills and bleachers.
The parade's grand marshals, Beau Gregory and Frank Portera, are former starters for the MSU baseball team.
"We're excited about our grand marshals," said Hobart. "Gregory pitched the first ball, and Portera caught it in the first game played on Dudy Noble field. We also plan to reenact that moment later in the year.
"This is an event for the whole family, not just those with rigs," Hobart added. "Decorate your truck, and come ride in the parade. Bring the kids, and let them catch some Mardi Gras beads. Our goal is to get the whole community involved."
Mississippi State baseball officially begins Feb. 17 with a 6 p.m. home game against Washington State.