Student group celebrates little red wagons

By Smita Krishnaswamy

REO Speedwagons, a registered student organization (RSO) at the University, is dedicated to racing Radio Flyer wagons behind mountain bikes on the quad every Friday night.

Bertram Berla, senior in LAS and president of REO Speedwagons, said the organization has about 200 members on its mailing list. Typically, between 30 and 100 people show up for the races on an average Friday night, he said.

“We scream a lot and punch each other,” Berla said.

Berla said the RSO has been around for five or six years.

“It was founded by two brothers – their mom really wanted them to get involved on campus, and they thought all the existing RSOs were stupid, so they founded their own,” he said.

Rory Murphy, treasurer of the club and senior in FAA, described the appeal of the club.

“Our members are pretty arrogant people and that makes us really boring because we have nothing to do on Friday nights,” he said. “It’s an excuse to get together and get out of the house. We’re also pretty violent and this is a socially acceptable way to display it.”

REO Speedwagons was recently contacted by the National Lampoon Network to film a segment on their Friday night activities for their Collegetown USA show. The program showcases activities at various universities around the United States.

“It’s basically a PG-13 version of the show Girls Gone Wild,” Berla said. “They go around colleges taking videos of people doing stupid things.”

Murphy said the network contacted Berla after looking through the RSO Web site. The network filmed the group’s Friday night activities earlier this month. Berla said he has no idea when the segment will air.

Murphy said he and Berla pay for the equipment necessary for the club. The wagons are purchased from Toys ‘R’ Us, and cost $30-35, he said. The RSO tries to keep three wagons in working condition at all times, while members bring their own mountain bikes at their own risk, Murphy said.

Murphy said the RSO applied to the SORF board for funding, but were denied. He said he was annoyed that the SORF board would deny funding to an organization with over 100 members and national media coverage.

The RSO also applied for funding to build a cardboard robot, Chief Illinibot, but were again denied funding, according to Murphy.

“The first time they said it was because they didn’t fund costumes, and the second time they said it was because we altered the original request – which wasn’t true,” he said.

“We do other things besides racing wagons; anything as long as it’s stupid and antagonistic – it’s got to be both,” Murphy said.

Murphy said the RSO was going to try for funding again.

“(REO Speedwagons) is getting expensive,” he said.

Matt Yasecko, senior in communications, has been a member of REO Speedwagons since his freshman year.

“I originally joined because I thought the previous president and treasurer were very funny – they knew how to have a good time,” he said.

But Yasecko said the REO Speedwagons have gone downhill in recent years.

“It’s not as crazy, not as many crashes – it’s just different,” he said.