Hastings helps make up Super Bowl's Crew 52
Mindy Leadholm, formerly of Hastings, has been a Vikings fan her whole life. Not even crossing the river into Packer territory could change that.
"It was the hardest thing for me to think about moving to Wisconsin as a Viking fan," Leadholm said.
Changing her license plate to Wisconsin was especially difficult, but she lessened the blow with a speciality license plate — SKOL MN.
She didn't have much of a choice in her team, seeing as she was raised by die-hard Vikings fans. Her parents, Ken and Betty Hoeschen of Hastings, had season tickets for more than 50 years and attended three of the four Super Bowls the Vikings played. Ken \ started the Hastings Vikings fan club, and the original Vikings mascot came to both Ken and Betty's and Leadholm's weddings.
"No one can say that we're bandwagon fans," Leadholm said.
"We got on the wagon a long time ago," Ken added.
This long history of fandom was one of the things that led Leadholm, Ken and Betty to sign up to be part of the Crew 52 volunteers for this year's Super Bowl LII on Sunday, Feb. 4, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
They're not the only ones with Hastings roots on the volunteer team.
Jan Hertel has always loved football, though love for the Vikings came a little later. Her first love was the Chicago Bears, but her heart turned purple after moving here with her family more than 40 years ago.
Her youngest daughter, Katy, was the main instigator. She would tape the Vikings games and watch them throughout the week, and every year for Halloween she dressed up as a player.
"She was the one who infected me with the spirit," Hertel said.
Both football and Vikings fans, Deb and Jim Lyness quickly signed up to volunteer.
"The first day that we could, we did it," Jim said. "We just thought it'd be neat to be involved."
Beyond football, and even the Vikings, being a part of the Minneapolis Crew 52 is a chance for these Minnesotans to show off the state. About 1 million people are expected to visit the Twin Cities over the weekend, beyond the 65,000 or so who will attend the game.
"It's showing off I think how great Minnesota is," Leadholm said.
Though it'll be colder than some visitors may have ever experienced, Hertel said Minnesota has plenty to offer.
"Once they're here they don't want to leave," she said. "I really think you couldn't do much better."
Making the finals
Of the nearly 30,000 people who applied for the volunteer positions, 10,000 were selected.
Signing up meant completing an application, undergoing a background check and conducting one-on-one interviews.
"It was a pretty extensive process," Leadholm said.
Kelly Sweeney knows just how much effort went on behind the scenes to get volunteers picked and ready to work. A U.S. Bank employee, Sweeney's involvement started in 2016 with the Super Bowl Host Committee.
"It's a massive undertaking that the host committee has made look like it's easy, and I know it's not," she said.
Sweeney helped with a lot of background work, including being one of the people conducting the interviews with applicants.
"I personally was just looking for people that have positive energy, happy people that were just excited about the opportunity," Sweeney said.
The interviews covered everything from previous volunteer experience to the important Minnesota question, "Do you mind being in the cold?"
The lucky 10,000 were notified last fall and attended their first orientation all together.
"It was really fun," Hertel said. "You got to see who the other 10,000 people are."
Selected volunteers include teenagers and those in their 70s, Sweeney said, and everything in between.
"I'm very excited about the caliber of the volunteers we have and I have the utmost faith that they're going to do a great job representing our city and our state," Sweeney said.
Over the last several weeks, the volunteers have been attending smaller sessions to learn more about their roles and responsibilities.
Most importantly, the volunteers are asked to be welcoming and hospitable, guiding guests where they need to go and giving recommendations of what to see.
"Mainly our focus is to be 'Minnesota nice,' just to be welcoming," Deb Lyness said. "Really it's just being there to be inviting so people want to come back to Minnesota."
The training did cover a few more serious topics, including security and the concern of human trafficking. Hertel said they were told what to look for in each situation and to report it, rather than trying to take it on themselves.
Preparation for the Super Bowl experience, and the rare opportunity it presents, has created a sense of community with the volunteers, Hertel said. A Facebook group includes posts full of accessory ideas, recommendations on warm boots, requests to switch uniform sizes and more.
"There is a sense of connection," Hertel said.
Taking the field
Crew 52 and the 10,000 volunteers who make it up will be spread across the Twin Cities, from Super Bowl Live on Nicollet Mall to hotels in St. Paul. They will be welcoming visitors at the airport and guiding guests through the skyways.
Deb and Jim Lyness both were selected for their top choice of activity — working Super Bowl Live. They'll be in the midst of some of the main activities on Nicollet Mall, including shows, snowmobiling, skiing and more.
"We wanted to be out there right in the middle of everything," Deb said.
The two are hoping to pick up extra shifts, which become available if any volunteers have to cancel. That hasn't happened yet, something the Lynesses have been told is rare.
"Nobody's backed out," Jim said.
Hertel will be stationed at a hotel in St. Paul, helping visitors find their way and giving them recommendations on where to go in the Cities.
"You get to be part of the big game in a small way," Hertel said.
Leadholm and Ken Hoeschen were still waiting for their training and assignments, but the two said they were excited to welcome people.
"We're just going to be there to greet people and show them how great our city and our state is," Leadholm said.
Just short of a miracle
Excitement reached a whole new level for these volunteers, and all of Minnesota, after the "Minneapolis Miracle" win against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, Jan. 14. Talking before last Sunday's game, the volunteers had a hard time containing their excitement about a potential Vikings Super Bowl.
The host team playing in the big game would have been an NFL first. It would have been a pleasant surprise for volunteers, as applications were submitted long before anyone knew how close the Vikings would get.
"That thought never crossed my mind," Jim Lyness said.
Though the Vikings fell short of the big game, these members of Crew 52 are still grateful for what they call a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
"This is a one-time shot for Minnesota," Hertel said. "I'll never get to the game, never, so I wanted to be involved with it in some way."