Two days before RFK Stadium would explode with the excitement of the Redskins' season opener against Eastern Division rival Dallas, a group of fans gathered in its empty parking lot to pay homage to the team in an unusual fashion.
"Claim Jumper," "Night Tripper" and "The Thunder Goddess" were names of some of the 28 vans in a caravan that assembled at RFK Saturday morning. The vehicles, belonging to members of Washington-area van clubs, later formed a colorful procession to Redskin Park in Herndon to present an award to the team.
It was a day for boastful banter, lighthearted mockery and Texan-taunting.
"We know Dallas will be here, we want them to know we will be here," said Bennie Smith, a Metro bus driver who belongs to the "R3B Van Club."
"That means Ronnie, Billy, Bennie and Buck. All of us are super Hogs. Especially me," Smith said.
The celebration was originated by The Last Episode, a group of District-born musicians that honors entertainers for their "contributions to the community and the betterment of mankind," said Fred Outten, a songwriter and manager of the group who organized the procession.
The Last Episode, formed in 1963 when Richard Collins and Clarence Monroe, former Dunbar High School students, began performing in talent shows along with Aubrey Swann, who attended McKinley Tech, and Jimmy Faisan, of Spingarn. Outten joined in 1971 and Jeff Hardy, who completes the group, in 1972. The combo has performed elsewhere on the East Coast and plays in local hotels.
Outten said he organized the caravan "because we wanted to do something different." Since its inception in 1980, the group has given its Humanitarian of All Mankind award to the Bee Gees, Sugar Ray Leonard, Stevie Wonder, Richard Pryor and Jersey Joe Walcott.
"It's our way of saying 'Thank you, Redskins,' " Outten said of the latest award.
Among the van clubs in Saturday's caravan were the Calvert County Vanners, Capitol City Vanners, the Metro Van Association from the District and the Pleasure Riders Van Club from Arlington.
At about 11:30 a.m., Joe Adams, a Giant Food distributor from Fort Washington, led the caravan in his shiny dark green "Claim Jumper."
"I wasn't normal for a month" after the Super Bowl win, said Adams, a member of the Capitol City Vanners. Adams' spirits changed little after Monday night, when the Redskins allowed the Cowboys to surge back from a 23-3 half-time deficit to a 31-30 win.
"I was a little disappointed, but we beat them in the trenches," said Adams, who watched the game with friends. "I'm still proud of them. We partied all the way through to the end. We're already looking forward to beating Philadelphia."
The vans, with pompons waving from their roofs and windows, cruised slowly behind a police escort past public garbage cans emblazoned with the burgundy and gold Redskins colors on East Capitol Street. They drew confused stares and occasional cheers from pedestrians as they continued west on Constitution Avenue, across Memorial Bridge and onto I-66 west to Herndon.
Outten presented a plaque to Redskins assistant general manager Bobby Mitchell, a recent football Hall of Fame inductee, as the group gathered around and chanted, "Hogs, Smurfs, Hogs, Smurfs."
The plaque was engraved with the words of a song about the Redskins written by Outten. He said The Last Episode will record the song this month and donate its earnings to Children's Hospital and "some minority adoption homes."