From a St. Michael movie theater to a frozen St. Cloud lake, Minnesotans are gathering Sunday to revel in purple pride and, hopefully, a purple victory.
As the Vikings travel to Philadelphia to take on the host Eagles in Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, some Minnesota fans may be watching the prime time contest unfold in nervous solitude. But for those opting for collective celebration — or sympathy — scores of local pubs, restaurants and other venues plan to cash in on the hoopla and hype of Super Bowl buzz by holding special game viewings complete with purple drinks.
“People want to come together to watch and celebrate,” said Shelley Schnell, manager of St. Michael Cinema, which is showing the game on three big screens.
In the frenzied anticipation of last week’s game, more than 900 fans showed up at the cinema to watch the game free of charge. This weekend, the northwest metro theater expects more than 1,000 fans to pack the theater for the showdown in Philly.
This is the first year the new owners of the theater decided to open it up for Vikings games, and Schnell said the turnout has exceeded expectations, drawing fans from St. Cloud to St. Paul to gather and share the excitement of cheering on the home team.
This Sunday’s viewing will even feature a drum so that the fans who gather can perform the Sköl chant. Smaller screens will cater to families for a less raucous viewing of the game.
In St. Cloud, about an hour northwest of the Twin Cities, fans can check out the game in the most Minnesotan way possible — outdoors next to a frozen lake.
The central Minnesota city this weekend is hosting Hockey Day Minnesota, the 12th annual statewide event put on by the Wild and featuring outdoor hockey games.
After Minnesota’s dramatic triumph over the New Orleans Saints last Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, organizers scrambled to put together plans to show this Sunday’s game on jumbo screens next to Lake George.
The screens will be placed inside a warming tent and also outside, next to firepits, after most of the hockey games end.
“It’s a great opportunity … in true Minnesota fashion, watching football outside in the middle of January,” said Emily Bertram of the St. Cloud Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
An hour northeast of the Twin Cities near Taylors Falls, the Wild Mountain Ski and Snowboard Area is also tapping fans who are outdoor enthusiasts. The ski area will display the game on TVs inside, offer ski lift specials and pour purple cocktails.
Extreme cold weather this winter has slowed the ski business, and Wild Mountain general manager Kevin Starr said the company decided to capitalize on the Vikings hype with a special event, going so far as to swap the company’s green and blue colors with Vikings purple and gold.
It also added a Vikings helmet to the logo’s eagle.
“We just want to join in on the fun. … We’ve got to do something special or people will stay home,” Starr said. “And I don’t want to watch the game alone!”
If that’s not your style, fans can even party at a grocery store.
Hy-Vee in Cottage Grove plans to host a viewing party with specials and prizes at its Market Grille, a restaurant and bar inside the grocery.
Dozens of local bars, restaurants and breweries are also getting in on the action.
In Robbinsdale, for the first time, Travail Kitchen & Amusements is holding a game day celebration that sold out its 75 spots within hours.
And not far from the shadow of U.S. Bank Stadium, site of the Super Bowl in two weeks, Day Block Brewing is hosting a game viewing with happy hour specials such as “purple reign shots.”
Nearby, at the Cedar Riverside Plaza towers, about 75 kids will gather in the Cedar Riverside Community School classrooms to watch the game in an event organized by ninth-grade boys in Sports-Check It Out, a library-like system for sports equipment.
They decided to host a viewing party after putting on events for Lynx and Timberwolves games and after some of the kids won a Super Bowl trip to Houston last year.
While the event is fun, it’s also a chance for children from low-income and immigrant families to watch a game that’s uniting Minnesotans in every corner of the state.
“We’re cheering them on and [being] a part of the excitement,” said Jennifer Weber, their coach and a 39-year fan of the Vikings. “Kids wouldn’t get invited anywhere else … it’s right here in the community.”