COLUMBIA — About 15 people stand on top of an RV, taking in the overhead view of the tailgate scene before a Missouri football game. Next to them is a flag pole with two black-and-gold flags, one with a gold Missouri “M” and another with the Missouri Tiger logo. About a hundred more people tailgate in tents nearby. Loud music plays. Tables of food and coolers abound.
A constant stream of friends and friends of friends come by. While it’s all fun, Kevin Reichert and Sully Fairchild’s tailgate requires plenty of work to maintain.
Reichert and Fairchild are among a group of eight friends who bought the RV to improve a tailgate that had been previously been hosted out of the back of a few pickup trucks. They drive the RV to all home games and have driven it to two games in Kansas City. While they sometimes attend more distant away games, the 1976 RV is not able to make those trips because of its age.
The group went to school at MU together. All eight are recent graduates. Some, such as Fairchild and Reichert, still live in Columbia, while others come in from out of town for the games.
“We always had a lot of people show up,” Reichert said. “We thought, ‘This is fun, but we can upgrade or something.’”
Their interest was piqued when they saw the Leprechaun, an RV at a Columbia used-car dealership.
“We actually went and test drove it, and we were going to buy it,” Fairchild said. “We offered the guy like $1,500 for it, I think. And he was like, ‘Well, some other guy is going to pay $2,000 for it.’ I was like, ‘Oh, this guy is just messing with us.’ So then we were going to go back the next day and buy it, but somebody actually bought it.”
Despite the Leprechaun getting away, Fairchild and his friends were set on getting an RV for their tailgate.
They went on Craigslist and found what they were looking for: a 1976 Dodge Midas. They paid $1,000 for the vehicle, which they have yet to name. The RV had been previously owned by a NASCAR enthusiast who used it to travel to races. It was two weeks before the Missouri-Kansas game last season when they bought it, and work was needed to get the vehicle to Kansas City for the game.
“When we got it, we drove it back and it needed work,” Reichert said. “It sat in this guy’s front yard for probably a full year without any use. And it just needed your basic tuneup. We just spent a couple of weekends, all of us. We had to drop the fuel tank, because it was full of just old fuel and sediment. When you have a 30-year old RV, it just took some time.”
The group does all of its own labor to maintain the vehicle. So the members of the group did the tuneup work themselves. This included adding railings to the carrier on top of the RV. The railings allow people to tailgate on top of the vehicle. After a few weekends of hard work, the RV was ready for the Kansas game.
Part of the group’s plan was to keep costs as low as possible. Having eight friends keeps each member’s costs low. They went over connections each member of the group had, getting insider deals on the rest of the costs of maintaining the RV.
“That’s kind of how the whole idea started,” Reichert said. “We all knew so many different people that could help us with this. One guy’s dad is an insurance agent. One guy’s dad had a shop. One guy’s dad had the deejay system he was willing to give us. Everybody started talking. They had so much to put in on it.”
One insider deal they have is on storing the vehicle. Research indicated they would have to pay about $200 a month to store it at a private facility. But a friend’s uncle owns a towing facility in Columbia, and the RV is stored there. The friend’s uncle is given some compensation on a sporadic basis, but the group pays far less than it would pay for another place to store the RV.
“We use the buddy system,” Fairchild said. “Because lots of the guys that help us, they come and tailgate too.”
The vehicle required an inspection when it was first purchased. It would have been a very minor cost, but a group member’s brother worked at a dealership, so it was handled for free.
One of the next projects for the vehicle is a new paint job. Friends have taken advantage of the fading paint and written all sorts of messages on the RV. When the group gets around to the new paint job, which might happen this season, the group will only need to buy the paint. A friend has agreed to paint it for free.
Reichert directly handles the costs of the maintenance of the RV then has the group reimburse him for their share. Including the parking pass for the RV lot, Reichert was able to set each group member’s share at $90 for this season, given all of the discounts the group receives.
So far, there haven’t been any unforeseen maintenance issues to drive up that cost.
“Knock on wood, nothing yet,” Reichert said. “But it’s inevitable when you have something this old.”
The group’s work begins on Wednesday or Thursday night for a Saturday game. That’s when some of them go to the facility where the RV is stored. They clean it out, removing all of the garbage in it from the previous game. The battery is checked, and work is done if necessary to make sure the RV will start. It is restocked with the food and drinks it needs to carry to the game. This process can take two to three hours.
Friday night, Reichert, the vehicle’s designated driver, must wait in line when the RV lot near Memorial Stadium opens to get the group a spot for the following day.
Saturday brings an early wake-up call. Depending on when the game starts the group will be ready to begin set-up work at 7 a.m., to set up the tents, food, deejay system and other items around the tailgate.
“We have to put so much work in it because we have all these people that every weekend, they’re like, ‘Oh, we’re coming to your tailgate,'” Reichert said. “‘We can’t wait to be there.’ Well, they don’t realize that it takes eight guys four hours to set up for it the day of.”
After all the work, it’s worth it for the fun they have.
“Everybody has a great time,” Reichert said. “And everybody tells their friends, ‘Oh, we had a blast at your tailgate, you going to do it again next week?’ We get calls, texts, Facebook hits for like, ‘Man, we definitely want to come again.’ ‘Yeah, it’ll be going again definitely.’ So it’s just building on itself.”