ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — John Lang conspicuously sits in the first row during Bills games at Highmark Stadium. You’d easily recognize him wearing his Elvis costume, which has earned Lang the affectionate nickname “Bills Elvis”.
He can be just as easy to find before or after games. Lang and dozens of friends have been tailgating in a private lot off of Southwestern Blvd. for the last several years.
“It’s an absolute riot,” he says. “It’s something we look forward to every game, every week.”
After the Bills clinched their second straight AFC East crown on Sunday by beating the Jets, Lang and his friends returned to the lot.
“After the game, we’re ready to celebrate again. (We) come out, and the truck that our friend uses for all the heavy stuff is just wiped clean,” Lang said.
According to Bills Elvis, their commercial grill, tent, Yeti cooler, propane, and utensils, which he values collectively at thousands of dollars, were all gone.
“The initial reaction was anger,” Lang said. “It was like, ‘You gotta be kidding me.’ Bills fans, we have each others backs. We’ve never locked that thing up and nothing has ever happened.”
“The show’s gotta go on,” he added. “Yeah, we have way too much fun to let a couple of dopes stop us.”
And so, Lang and his buddies turned their attention to procuring replacements for Saturday night’s Wild Card game against New England.
“We know we had to get it together by Saturday. I went to Home Depot. I’m looking at grills. I sent Tony, who runs everything, a picture. I go, ‘I got this. I’ll get you a grill.’ He said, ‘Too late. I already ordered one.'”
A GoFundMe page to help pay for everything was created late Monday morning. It had a $3,000 goal. By 4:30 in the afternoon, Bills Mafia had already raised $5,300.
Lang says after they replace everything, they’ll give the rest of the funds to the Patricia Allen Fund at Oishei Children’s Hospital.
And he shares some advice.
“I guess you need to lock stuff up now, unfortunately,” Lang says. “I wasn’t raised that way. I guess everybody should lock their stuff up.”
Chris Horvatits is an award-winning reporter and anchor who started working at WIVB in 2017. A Lancaster native, he came to Buffalo after working at stations in Rochester and Watertown. See more of his work here and follow him on Twitter.