The famous oak trees that once loomed over Toomer's Corner in Auburn, Ala., may be gone, but the traditions they embodied remain. Tonight — nearly three years after charges were filed against a jealous football fan who poisoned the trees — Auburn University students, alumni and fans will once again celebrate where the trees once stood.
They have a lot to celebrate this year — unlike in years past. The year the trees slowly died was a bad year for Auburn football. "The whole town fell into a slump," Auburn Art Store owner Cliff Hare told the New York Times this weekend. "It was real sad around here. People celebrated the trees, but still missed them. We knew we could not get them back. But we knew we could start over and regrow."
Tonight the Auburn Tigers go into the annual BCS Championship game against the Florida State Seminoles with an almost perfect season behind them. The team has won 12 out of 13 games so far this season, including a last-second win with one of the most dramatic plays in college football history.
Football victories at Auburn have traditionally been celebrated by partying under the oaks at Toomer's Corner, which were festooned in toilet paper. But in the absence of the great oaks, wires have been strung across the area, allowing the toilet paper tradition to continue after this year's 12th win, December's SEC Championship Game against Missouri. The return to Toomer's Corner was welcomed by students and alumni. "There's no better place to be after a win," Auburn student Grant Herron told the Opelika-Auburn News last month.
You can see some of the celebration in this video below:
The winning football season has also been a boon to the local economy, which suffered last year. While the trees were dying and the football team was losing, the corner "looked like something out of a horror movie," J & M Bookstore owner Trey Johnston told the Times. Business was so bad that year that he applied for a bank loan to keep going. But this year's winning season "has been a godsend," he said. "I'm all paid up now. I'm flush."
Auburn Director of Athletics Emeritus David Housel told the Times that the trees may be gone, but the Auburn spirit remains. "That gentleman who killed those trees thought he was killing something. He didn't kill anything ... we just went down somewhere else and started all over again."
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