COLUMBIA — Looking around at the various parking lots located on the Missouri campus, it’s hard to believe what will take place in just a few hours.
It’s 11 a.m., and the parking lot on the northwest corner of College Avenue and Stadium Boulevard is virtually empty, except for a few cars huddled together in the back. The MU-Nebraska game isn’t for another nine hours, but with all the hype surrounding the game, the tailgate is sure to be one of the craziest of the year.
A school bus rolls into the parking lot a few minutes after 11, but it’s not here to pick up elementary school children. It’s here to party.
Last spring eight friends pooled together $2,500 to buy the bus. The friends, who are in their early 20s, installed three 10-inch subwoofers, amplifiers and two house speakers. They also removed the seats in the back to make room for dancing, and the area is referred to as “Club Dirty.”
The owners are from St. Charles and O’Fallon. Some are MU graduates, while others go to colleges closer to home. They have used the bus for bachelor parties, 21st birthdays and trips to wineries. But today is a momentous occasion. It’s the bus’s first tailgate.
“We’re going to be partying all day,” Tim Nagle, who stores the bus at his father’s auto shop when it’s not in use, said. “We’re not even going into the game. We’re just here to party.”
Hours slowly pass, and a steady stream of MU fans flood into the parking lots. It is the annual Gold Rush game, and the fans’ bright apparel blends in with the scorching sun.
And yet, some fans still manage to stick out.
Wielding a yellow light saber, MU freshman Jimmy Adams walks around with friends on the west side of Memorial Stadium. Sporting a Darth Vader costume, he is dressed in yellow from helmet to toe.
Adams painted most of his outfit yellow, but didn’t have time to paint his black dress shoes.
“No one’s going to see them in the stands, so who cares?” he said.
Adams didn’t leave out any details from the costume. Along with his helmet and light saber, he wears a cape, gloves, vest, long-sleeve T-shirt and pants. All are yellow, except the helmet, which has a large yellow “M” airbrushed on it.
It took Adams more than 12 hours and lots of experimentation to put together the ensemble. He bought the Darth Vader costume at Target while shopping for a gorilla suit for the Nov. 10 Texas A&M game, when fans are encouraged to wear black. Adams tried to spray paint his costume, but he had to buy customized house paint at Lowe’s to coat everything yellow.
While Adams’ identity is kept secret, MU senior Peter Hales leaves little to the imagination. Hales wears a gold robe with nothing but tiny running shorts – and lots of chest hair – underneath.
“That’s all natural,” he said.
Hales, who also sports a “fu manchu” mustache, bought the robe while studying abroad in Vietnam last spring. He said the outfit was the only gold he had, and that he hoped MU coach Gary Pinkel would be grateful for his dedication.
There’s no doubt Pinkel would be grateful for Chris and Marcella Swatosh’s dedication. The couple, from Ava, a city in south-central Missouri, owns an RV unlike any of the hundreds parked outside the stadium.
The RV is black and gold and the front is shaped like a giant football helmet. Chris bought the RV nine years ago from the Kansas City Chiefs and promptly painted it in his alma mater’s colors.
The couple drives the RV to every home game, but Marcella said she has yet to pick up her 6-year-old daughter from school in it.
“Everybody loves it,” she said. “We’ve gotten some major honk attacks.”
The game is only an hour away now. Traffic is backed up from all directions. Every parking lot is jam-packed. The heart of Columbia is beating like never before.
— Missourian reporter Drew Schmenner contributed to this report