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November 8, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
On game day, thousands of fans pack into Memorial Stadium to watch the Tigers take on their latest opponent under bright stadium lights.
But at dawn the next day, the stadium is empty and quiet. It looks like a giant fraternity house on the morning after. Strewn about are plastic cups and pizza boxes, plates of stale nachos, an abandoned flip-flop, ketchup packets, forgotten sunglasses, torn banners, half-eaten hot dogs, the occasional mound of dried vomit and peanut shells — peanut shells everywhere. While most fans sleep off the elation (or deflation) of the day before, several groups of volunteers awaken with the sun to clean up the colossal mess the game goers left behind.
“Guys, we have to go over this section again,” shouts Matt Pethan, who is at the stadium with a group of volunteers from a Little League team. He drags around a large Hefty bag half full of trash. “We need to get everything — even the mustard packets.”
“Do we need to get the peanut shells?” asks a young volunteer with a slightly disgusted look on his face.
“No, don’t worry about those,” Pethan says to the Little Leaguer.
Pethan’s crew of volunteers consists of about 20 10-year-old boys and just as many tired parents who are there to raise money for the Mid-Missouri Legends baseball team. In exchange for their cleaning services, the university will make a donation to their group, as with all of the other crews present. “It’s a fundraiser for the ball team,” Pethan says, “so we can get a bit nicer stuff, and so parents pay a bit less.”
Workers clean up trash from the Homecoming game with leaf blowers in the stands Sunday, Oct. 28, 2012 at Faurout Field. The Eubanks Cleaning Solutions hires group organizations along with their own employees to complete the job. Photograph by Rachel English
Joann Eubanks-Barber, a woman who looks very much in charge, stands halfway up the bleachers and gives out directions. Barber coordinates the volunteer groups. This morning, she estimates that there are six or seven groups, each raising money for a different cause.
“We start cleaning at 7 a.m. and sometimes it takes until 1 p.m., and sometimes we’re here until 4 or 5 o’clock,” she says. “It just all depends.”
As Barber walks out of the seating area, she spots a group of about 15 men wearing earmuffs and wielding leaf blowers with engines revved full blast. She gives them a few instructions and continues walking. After trash is gathered by hand, these men comb through the seats and blow what’s left (all those peanut shells) into piles that are collected later.
“I can’t even tell you how much garbage there is,” Barber says. “At least 1,500 bags outside and another 800 inside. Sometimes it seems endless.”
Volunteers from the College Park Christian Academy, a group of about eight adults and 15 children, have been helping for the past three years to raise money for a scholarship program. The hill with the rock “M” is their territory, and the team cleaned it with precision, although horseplay was rampant among the children. “No kids on the bleachers. The hill is ours, people!” shouts Terri Erickson, a parent and chaperone.
In the background, two young boys joust with bags of trash, slide down the length of the green grass on the hill and hit each other the whole way.
“I got you!” one shouts.
“No, you didn’t,” the other yells back. “I got you!”
Abigail, one of the youngest members of the group, was dragging around a bag of garbage roughly her size and took her duty more seriously. She looks no older than 5 years old.
“Do you like football?” I ask her.
“Not really,” she says. She’s just there to help get the stadium clean.