COLUMBIA – Driving up Mick Deaver Drive in the shadow of Faurot Field, you notice the inflatables already set up. Fans in black and gold are crossing the street, setting up tents and visiting with friends.
It's 11 a.m., and the game is still eight hours away, but the tailgate activities have begun.
Closer to gametime, it's always difficult to walk through the crowds immediately around the stadium. Saturday, that's how it felt two parking lots away.
Experiencing tradition on a big stage
Graduated members of Marching Mizzou know they'll always have a role on Homecoming. Mike Gill, a 1999 Missouri graduate, looks forward to it every season.
"It's just, yeah, getting to see people," he said. "Seeing people that I haven't seen since the last year. You form a lot of close personal ties with people, (with whom) you spent so much time in rehearsal. You'll be friends for life."
Gill and other band members have the privilege of playing for the pre-game festivities, including the national anthem and the Missouri songs they remember so well.
"It's also a good chance to get out and be part of the football game, the atmosphere, the homecoming festivities," he said. "Good to get out on the field again."
Gill keeps his music skills fresh playing trombone in Columbia.
"Well I play in a band," he said. His rock band is a local group called Double Duty. "It's always fun to get out the sousaphone for marching band," he said.
Living in Columbia allows Gill to see a lot of his fellow band members more regularly.
"Some live in town, I mean those are the people, some of my best friends," he said. "Trying to keep up, it's easier with Facebook. Now a lot of the people I only see once a year, now I feel like I'm keeping up with them on a daily basis. Still good to see them in person."