Tailgaters bring Wildcat-themed vehicles for season opener

By Bethany Knipp

Saturday’s first home football game against Stephen F. Austin University gave Wildcat fans a release from the anticipation they had felt after waiting all summer for the season to start.

As usual, thousands of tailgaters displayed their Wildcat pride in purple and white, but some took things a step further and showed up in their own Kansas State University special transportation.

Tom Abbott and his wife, Ruth, of Manhattan have had a K-State school bus since 2000, a decorated purple-and-white tailgating treasure that they bring to games.

It also has thousands of fans’ signatures all over it.

“When you come to our tailgates, you sign the bus,” Tom Abbott said.

Complete with a DISH Network satellite and TV, as well as a bathroom, seats and polaroids of past tailgates, Tom Abbott said he couldn’t even count all signatures written with permanent marker on the bus’ exterior.

“Oh my gosh, I have no idea because they fade off in three or four years,” he said. “The only thing you can’t do is — you see where I had to rub somebody out because they wrote something nasty about K-State?” he said pointing to a small smudge where K-State blasphemy had been. 

Abbott said the bus came with a property he purchased in Junction City. He put a motor in it and it’s traveled to games ever since.

“With the TV, there’s a lot of people who stop and watch whenever the game is going on,” Ruth Abbott said.

Not too far from the Abbotts’ bus was a decked out K-State ambulance. It’s owner, who declined to give his name, said he got it from Purple Wave auction two years ago.

“There were a couple dead people in the back and we kicked them out,” he joked.

He got it four years ago, specifically as a “tailgate wagon.”

The ambulance, which is from Washington County, does not have sirens. But it does have “Beermergency” on the front in backward letters so drivers can look in their rearview mirrors and see it. It also has a swing in it for the man’s children.

Near the main gate of the Bill Snyder Family Stadium, Kurt and Pam Dillon had a yellow school bus that carries their family and friends from St. George to Manhattan for tailgate time.

The Dillons bought the bus two years ago from the Rawlins County school district, where Kurt Dillon used to teach.

His son-in-law Andy Klein said the bus is in Phase 1 of construction. Some of the seats were taken out, and a shelving area for storage had been installed the night before the game, Pam Dillon said.

“We love it,” she said. “(Kurt) wanted one he could stand up in.”

“It’s so fun to be able to have enough room where we can all ride together,” she said.

There are eight legal seats in the bus counting the driver’s seat.

Klein said that to make the bus legal, the extending stop sign and the word “school” had to be taken off of the bus.

Pam Dillon said that someday they hope to paint the bus, but until then, she said people have told her the color makes it easy to find.

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