Hail to the chief ... of K.C. tailgate

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Dave Shipman has hit the big time.

That's what happens when the owner, general manager and coach of the Kansas City Chiefs have stopped by your tailgate, shared a drink with you and signed a homemade tepee you built.


That's what happens when Sports Illustrated begins a special pullout on tailgates by profiling your event.

And that's what happens when your tailgate gets to be so popular that you have to split the party in two out of safety concerns.


"It's been quite a ride," said Shipman, the 48-year-old founder of "The Tribe." "It's become the place to be when you're at Arrowhead Stadium."

Shipman and the 100 or so people who visit wear the requisite red sweatshirts, turtlenecks and coats that the Chiefs sport. Shipman also wears a headdress and cooks up a meal in honor of the opponent. (Yesterday's special: wings in honor of the Ravens.)

But the crowning achievement is the 7-foot tepee that Shipman, his sister Julie and childhood friend Vickie Gregory made by renting Dances With Wolves and watching it over and over again in 1990.

Sewn into the fabric are interchangeable arrowheads with signatures of that year's players and head coach. This season's arrowhead has autographs from 47 of the 53 players on the Chiefs' active roster and head coach Herman Edwards.

The parts of the tepee that cannot be replaced are reserved for the signatures of team owner Lamar Hunt, general manager/president/CEO Carl Peterson and Hall of Famers like Willie Lanier and Warren Moon.

The inspiration for the tepee came when Julie Shipman and Gregory dragged Dave Shipman to a Chiefs game in 1988. Sitting in Gregory's convertible and watching the tailgating before him, Shipman said, "Next year, we're going to do something."

The tepee has become a tradition in the Arrowhead Stadium parking lot, and friends have cautioned Shipman about leaving it unprotected at times in the lot.

But Shipman does not share those concerns. "It belongs to all of us," he said, motioning to fans walking past. "I display it for everyone. Besides, who could try to sell it on eBay and get away with it?"