For this "Monday Night Football," Vikings players and fans moved from the field to the Mall of America for a Taste of the NFL.

For the event's 20th year, players signed autographs and served food from local restaurants in Nickelodeon Universe. The goal was to support the Vikings Children's Fund Summer Lunch Program, which provides meals to kids through Second Harvest Heartland during the three months they aren't in school.

Hannah Banwell, 8, of Minneapolis, was there for autographs, but also understood the importance of the event. "If I didn't have food, I would not be happy," she said.

Retired Viking Randall McDaniel has worked in local schools for 16 years. Now in the Westonka district, he helps special needs students or, as he said, "chase[s] around second-graders." He credits football for helping him be a stickler for routines. From personal experience, he understands the importance of meals.

"Even if a kid misses a meal at home, they can get it at school," he said.

In the classroom, he has tied many shoes over the years, and he has been known to bring in a pair of his size 15s to demonstrate both the bunny ears and wrap-around techniques. "They learn from a huge model," he said.

And a role model, too.



The Minnesota Opera's season started with a strong note at the annual gala.

The Sept. 25 opening performance of "Orpheus and Eurydice" was an appropriate if bold choice for artistic director Dale Johnson. The male lead was David Daniels, a countertenor, which is the equivalent of a male soprano.

"In the mid-1700s, the high, pure voice was considered heroic because purity of sound meant purity of souls," said Johnson, adding that they were the Italian music rock stars of their time.

The morality tale would be likely to resonate for the modern Midwesterner. "It's for the strong, hardy and pure of heart," said Johnson.

Sara Glassman • 612-673-7177