Archive for Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Kanbulance is the life of the party

Owners of the Kanbulance, from left, Paul Wallen, Kitcha Paranjothi, Adrienne Paranjothi, Lisa Leroux-Smith, Wes Smith, Amy Clark and David Clark, all of Lawrence, stand next to their pride and joy: an ambulance that has been converted into the ultimate Jayhawk tailgating machine.

Owners of the Kanbulance, from left, Paul Wallen, Kitcha Paranjothi, Adrienne Paranjothi, Lisa Leroux-Smith, Wes Smith, Amy Clark and David Clark, all of Lawrence, stand next to their pride and joy: an ambulance that has been converted into the ultimate Jayhawk tailgating machine.

March 27, 2012


For three years, the crimson and blue decorated Kanbulance has been the hit at Kansas University football tailgates.

Kanbulance front

Kanbulance front

The emergency vehicle turned Jayhawk mobile has been the backdrop of Christmas cards and admired by fans of opposing teams. It’s been named best tailgate of the week at Memorial Stadium and on ESPN.

So last Sunday night when the Kanbulance took a victory lap down Massachusetts Street to celebrate the KU men’s basketball team’s win against North Carolina, its owners were a bit stunned by how much attention it received.

“I was surprised by how many people haven’t seen it,” Wes Smith said. “It was pretty fun.”

“You can tell who has never seen it,” Amy Clark said. “They go ‘oh my god’ and fumble for their phone to take a picture.”

With lights flashing and KU fight song blaring, the converted ambulance joined thousands of fans downtown to celebrate the KU team’s appearance in the Final Four.

“People were taking photos and asking questions, ‘Can I get a picture? Can I sit on the back?’ It was an incredible thing,” Kitcha Paranjothi said.

Three years ago, the Kanbulance was purchased by four Lawrence families: Wes Smith and his wife, Lisa Leroux-Smith; Kitcha and Adrienne Paranjothi, David and Amy Clark; and Paul and Jana Wallen.

The group has nine children among them, ages 8 to 13, and has ties to KU. The families started tailgating the traditional way, out of the back of SUVs. But, the men in the group were looking to expand their tailgating opportunities. Some of them were considering an old school bus.

“But then we thought where in the heck can you park a bus?” Paranjothi said.

Then they learned about the “ultimate tailgating machine,” or “fanbulances.”

As luck would have it, a police department in a St. Louis suburb was auctioning off a green and yellow striped ambulance that had been part of its DARE program. The group won the auction and brought the ambulance home to Lawrence.

It took AJ’s Custom Signs and Graphics three months to decorate the ambulance, which has blue and red stripes on the sides and lights on the top in Jayhawk colors. Football helmets and the words ResKU adorn the sides. A Jayhawk peeks out over the hood. Above the doors that swing open in the back is Allen Fieldhouse’s familiar warning: “Pay heed, all who enter. Beware of the Phog.”

The families made sure to get the proper permission from KU to use its logo and colors.

“They just want to make sure we weren’t going to make money off of this. We said not at all. If anything, it’s a money pit,” Paranjothi said.

The Kanbulance has the ability to haul 10 chairs, two coolers, a gas grill, propane tank, generator, awning and buffet tables. And that’s just what gets carried in the outside compartments.

Inside, the ceiling is covered in autographs from coaches, current and former players, fire fighters and emergency medical technicians. On the roof is an 8-foot yellow goal post that gets put up for tailgates.

The families host planning meetings to map out who will be in charge of what games and what food to bring. On game day, the tailgates can include as many as 200 people, and the men have been known to arrive as early as 5:30 a.m. to begin setting up, which takes about 45 minutes.

“All the families are Jayhawk fans, and we can finally afford to do something like this and act like we’re 21 years old again,” Paranjothi said.

The Kanbulance doesn’t just travel to football games. It appears at birthday parties, Sunday afternoon Lawrence’s youth football games and has been auctioned at school fundraisers as the transportation for pub crawls. It was even the “limo” at the wedding of a former KU football player.

But Saturday evening was the first time the Kanbulance appeared downtown after an NCAA Tournament win.

“We bought it right after we won in ’08,” Smith said. “So we were thinking, how awesome would it be to have it in the parade?”

Last year, when KU played Virginia Commonwealth University during the Elite Eight round, the Kanbulance crew was ready to mobilize for the downtown party. Unfortunately, that celebration never took place.

“I was just as ready,” Smith said. “But unlike (Sunday night) I got to drive home by myself. There was not a single soul with me after we lost.”

That wasn’t the case on Sunday evening. Shortly after KU’s victory, the families took off from a watch party, loaded the kids into the Kanbulance and headed downtown to celebrate.

“Hopefully we can do it again Saturday and Monday,” Paranjothi said.


billbodiggens 6 years ago

Now, that's just plain fun...! Good job!

AppleHappy 6 years ago

I really love this thing and the spirit behind it, but when I saw it coming down Mass St with its lights on from about a block away, I thought someone was seriously hurt and the medics couldn't get through because of the crowds. It freaked me out a little bit. I love this thing, but it looks a little too similar to an emergency vehicle when its lights are on and the goal posts aren't raised. Is it possible to replace the goal posts with a basketball goal while driving with the lights on during Basketball season?

sammyr2 6 years ago

referring to comment above. The Kanbulance is awesome.

Hooligan_016 6 years ago

Yeah, I was inside Jefferson's and saw the lights flashing in front Teller's and thought something had happened ..

somebodynew 6 years ago

Not trying to be a Debbie Downer, because I do think the thing is cool, BUT - have they obtained the proper permission to use the lights??? Last I looked there are strict guidlines about using (or even having) Emergency Lights on a vehicle. Just look at the above posters to see how they were confused. I would hate to see the lawsuit if someone had a wreck because they thought there was a true emergency vehicle approaching.

MarcoPogo 6 years ago

Why would someone wreck their car if they saw emergency lights coming? Sounds like the problem is with the driver, not the lights.

archazard 6 years ago

One of the owners is a lawyer. I would think he has all of the proper documentation needed to operate the vehicle.

BruceWayne 6 years ago

"Not trying to be a Debbie Downer"...then don't.

TheStonesSuck 6 years ago

I saw this thing getting towed away from Mass St. on Sunday night.

thepianoman 6 years ago

I would have to agree with the above posters regarding it being confused with an emergency vehicle. It's a great thing don't get me wrong, but I'm shocked it's legal and that local police haven't told them it's not legal to have the lights and sirens etc.

jayhawkzrule 6 years ago

This is awesome. How cool. Not only does it show great spirit, it is a great way to get people together for games, tailgaiting, etc. Regarding the emergency lights, it is my understanding that they generally only turn them on when they are off the road, on private property or in special parade-type situations. They never run the lights when driving on the streets to avoid confusion.

Jean Robart 6 years ago

I have never heard of this thing until this article. I have lived in Lawrence 12 years, and worked at KU, and followed the basketball team. Were they deliberately keeping news of this vehicle to themselves? I mean, it's obviously not breaking news, and I think it's way better than the KSU counterpart.

thebigspoon 6 years ago

Article states it has been around 3 years. Have you ever been to a KU football game ? I have seen it there a bunch of times ? Pretty easy to spot it in the tailgating area. They tried to use it for basketball before but as it states in the article the team lost and there was no need to celebrate then...

Jean Robart 6 years ago

nope have not gone to a football game. I've only been in the football stadium once---April of 2008

jayhawkkitcha 6 years ago

Hello everyone! I am one of the owners and we appreciate the comments. Let me first say that I have talked to the DMV and the state trooper that certified the Kanbulance. It is perfectly ok for us to have lights, sirens long as we do not turn them on during normal drives. We are allowed to turn them on at tailgates, parades etc... We have had the Kanbulance approx 3 years and tailgate at each home football game. This was our first time and opportunity to take it down mass for a celebration and hope we get to do it again on monday! Thanks again for all the comments and the love!!! Rock Chalk Jayhawk!

By the way, I love Norfolk State!

missmagoo 6 years ago

You guys are awesome.. this is by far the coolest thing I've seen in a long time :)

NotASquishHead 6 years ago

So, what your saying is... You knowingly violated the law by turning the emergency lights on with the vehicle in motion on a roadway. "We are allowed to turn them on at tailgates, parades etc" This was not a parade and you were operating on a legal roadway. Typical lawyer.

But, I still like the Kambulance.

truckfan 6 years ago

the bloggers even find a way to pick on a story like this. amazing!

jayhawkkitcha 6 years ago

Well I appreciate you still like the Kanbulance, but I am not the lawyer of the group! I agree with the previous comments about wanting to know why you are picking on this topic? Why not enjoy the fact that KU beat UNC AGAIN and we were having a good time with fellow Jayhawk fans? The police didn't seem to have a problem with it so why do you? Just asking?

Commenting has been disabled for this item.