Minnesotans can lay justified claim to being above average in yet another category: showing up to stand outdoors in January and February without being paid for it.
Super Bowl Host Committee organizers are midway through the final week of orientation sessions for 10,000 volunteers. For each 90-minute session, 245 volunteers signed up to learn the rules, get public safety training and pick up their bright blue Super Bowl uniforms.
What’s unusual is the rate at which they’re showing up. Standard attrition for volunteer efforts is about 30 percent, volunteer director Elle Kehoe said. Attrition for “Crew 52” is no higher than 5 percent, meaning 95 percent of those who signed up are showing up. At the Super Bowl in San Francisco, Kehoe said the drop-off was 40 percent.
“Everyone’s just really excited for the opportunity,” Kehoe said of the crew.
She figured Minnesotans wouldn’t drop out at the typical rate so she planned schedules to accommodate losing about 20 percent, or 2,000 volunteers. Volunteers will be on duty from Jan. 26 through the game Feb. 4. Kehoe said the sign-up sheets for two to three shifts of several hours each are full.
“We’re thinking 10,000 will show up so this city will be completely blue,” Kehoe said, anticipating that some who have yet to make orientations will attend a makeup session.
That means a full dose of Minnesota hospitality for an estimated 1 million visitors to events throughout the Twin Cities during the event. Many volunteers would like to see the hometown team play in the game, but they’re expected to give a warm welcome even to — should it happen — Philadelphia Eagles fans.
Volunteer Patricia Heining, 78, of Victoria said she’s retired and traveled a lot for work in the hospitality industry. “I want to be a great ambassador for Minnesota,” she said. As for not being paid, “I like to give, I don’t always need to be on the receiving end,” Heining said.
Andrew Scullen, 47, an employee of Delta Air Lines, said he’d just completed his college degree, had some free time and the opportunity looked fun. “Why wouldn’t you want to be part of the show?” he said.
The volunteers will be deployed to the airport, hotels, the skyways, the outdoor music-food-zipline-kitten bowl-funfest Super Bowl Live on Nicollet Mall and the downtown volunteer headquarters.
They don’t get paid, but they get volunteer boxes including their uniforms: heavy duty parkas, down jackets, polos, scarves, hats, backpacks and mittens. They’re told to wear black pants and black or neutral shoes.
Kehoe and Super Bowl spokeswoman Andrea Mokros attribute the lack of drop-off in participation to characteristic “Bold North” pride and persistence as well as a desire to be part of a big event that hasn’t been here for 26 years.
“When they commit to something, they do it,” Mokros said of Minnesotans.
Kehoe added, “And they don’t want to let the rest of their crew down or let the state down.”
At recent sessions, volunteer coordinators Cordell Smith and Matt Snyder kept the orientation upbeat, even getting frequent laughter from the trainees.
Organizers point out to volunteers that most visitors won’t be among the 65,000 at the game. “You don’t have to go to the game to have an amazing experience,” Smith said. “Think about what you love about Minnesota. That’s something you should hold onto and share.”
The presenters get to the practical: wear the volunteer-issue blue jacket, polo or parka when on duty; if you get hungry, let your captain know; don’t come early, just be on time.
Smith tells them to be as helpful as possible, but, “I don’t think you can teach people on a piece of paper how to drive in the snow,” he said. Volunteers can, however, tell them that having all-wheel drive doesn’t mean they can go 80 mph in a snowstorm.
He tells them to know the basics, but they don’t have to serve as concierges. “I don’t want you to go, ‘I’m just here for the Super Bowl, I don’t know where the front desk is,’ ” he said.
Metro Transit rides will be free for volunteers during the event. Smith warned about road congestion, parking scarcity and planning ahead. “I don’t want anybody thinking, ‘I’m going to come down and just park in the ramp,’ ” he said. “Because it probably won’t happen.”
Snyder and Smith told the volunteers to remove their blue gear when they’re off duty. “Otherwise, you’ll be in a bar doing shots and someone will ask you where the bathroom is and you won’t know,” Snyder said.
Touching on public safety concerns were Minneapolis Police Sgt. Jose Gomez and Beth Holger-Ambrose, who crusades against sexual exploitation as executive director of The Link, a nonprofit.
Gomez told the volunteers, “If you see something, say something” and reminded them that the Boston Marathon bombers carried their pressure cooker bombs in backpacks. See something odd — like a person carrying a cooler down Nicollet Mall on a cold day — notify a crew captain, the volunteers are told.
In her speech, Holger-Ambrose told the group to look for unusual tattoos, like bar codes, on young women dressed provocatively and to keep an eye out for older men paying cash for hotel rooms with a young woman by their side.
After the sessions, the volunteers lined up to collect their gear and scoot out the door to make way for the next wave of 250.
Alison Prosser, a 30-something lawyer from Chaska, said, “It seems like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to share the spirit of Minneapolis and Minnesota.
Many of the volunteers are Vikings fans, but that’s not foremost in their minds. “Most of all I love Minnesota,” said Carla Nelson, a retiree from Minnetonka. “I thought this was a really unique opportunity.”