Getting "Blast"ed for kids

Click here for a slideshow of Arctic Blast.

Arctic Blast XIII February 9-10, 2008 Lake Mille Lacs

“949… 459,” announced the pear shaped man sporting a Miller Lite “Field Crew” vest and standing atop the Buzzie’s at the Bay bar. Next to him stood a woman wearing a similar pink vest and holding a Minnesota Vikings sweatshirt. It was one of many such raffles during this 13th annual event held on Minnesota’s second largest lake. “Woooooo,” screamed the blatantly intoxicated man in the crowd with a vacant stare whose insulated bibs and jeans had accomplished the seemingly impossible feat of teaming up to bare his ass crack to the rest of the bar’s patrons. He hadn’t won. He probably didn’t even have a raffle ticket, or if he did it was probably wallowing in the massive puddle of spilt $3 Miller Lites pooling at his feet. This man was the exception though. The Viking’s Arctic Blast is about two things: one, fans young and old from out-state Minnesota getting a chance to get up-close to larger-than-life professional football players; and two, raising money for the Viking’s Children Fund while providing a shot in the arm for the local watering holes and businesses during the off-peak winter months.

Drink Miller and everyone wins!

According to the team’s website, the Vikings' Children Fund is the way players, coaches and executives address the many needs of children in the upper Midwest. The fund focuses on family services such as shelters for homeless families and education resources for troubled youth in the community. The fund also provides funding opportunities for researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Department of Pediatrics.

Of course many of us remember how five years ago the Arctic Blast was anything but charitable. During the 8th Annual Blast, two incidents reportedly occurred involving former and active players and female attendees of the event. Two players were accused of sexual assault: former back-up quarterback Todd Bouman, who was never charged, and former running back Ted Brown, who now faces first- and third-degree sexual assault charges. This was two years before the team further tarnished its name on another body of water during the Love Boat scandal.

Todd has very few fans on Mille Lacs

Charity or debauchery? Child welfare or felonies? The question I had before heading north was, “What kind of “Blast” will this year’s be?”

Photographer in tow, our day began at the now infamous Eddy’s Resort. About 150-250 people gathered in the banquet room to gear up in every conceivable shade of neon coat for the day of snowmobiling. As in every Minnesotan gathering, the weather is a favorite topic. It made sense given the forecast of plummeting temperatures and winds of 40 mph+. In the interest of full disclosure, we did not snowmobile. We were happy just to bar hop from each “Official Blast Point” to the next following the Vikings as they traversed clockwise this 60 mile-in-circumference beast of a frozen lake. A quick walk around the room made it pretty clear that the player participation record was safe. Given the scheduling conflict with the Pro-bowl (it is still unclear whether or not the planners just assumed no Vikings would actually make the Pro-bowl) it was safe to assume beforehand that the most popular Vikings would be half a world away, both literally and climatically, in Honolulu. The lineup of current and former players included backup quarterback, Wisconsin native Brooks Bollinger, rookie wide receiver Aundrae Allison, punter Chris Kluwe (more on him in a moment), Hall of Fame members Carl Eller and Paul Krause, and former linebacker Scott Studwell. Local resident Mike Warden was somewhat disappointed with this year’s turnout, but stressed that the weather probably had a lot to do with it.

Ronnie Holt could never be disappointed with any Vikings event

Vikings Fun Fact: a quick Wikipedia search reveals that not only is Chris Kluwe amongst the 10 highest paid punters in the league, but he’s also an avid World of Warcraft player and a member of its Flying Hellfish Guild maintaining a level 70 Rogue on the Kil’Jaeden server.

Whatever that means.

How does he fend off the swirlies in the locker-room?

After departing Eddy’s, the next stop was the Blue Goose Inn located in the small town of Garrison. The Blue Goose décor caters to local fisherman’s ultimate fantasies: a three and a half foot muskie graces the wall next to a fake eight foot marlin. It was only noon, but with Miller Lites only $3 today, few could afford not to tip one back. The Goose was the first Blast point raffling off signed version of everything from baseball hats to bicycles. Our seat by the window afforded us a view of Scott Studwell, now director of college scouting for the Vikes, conversing with some fellow snowmobilers before firing up a cigar in front of this somewhat confusing sign:

The only clear message is that you can eat many, many ribs for not a lot of money One of the most amazing parts of this event were how many wide-eyed kids were in attendance and clutching a hat, t-shirt, or football ready for the signature of someone that they might not even recognize but are nevertheless in awe.

After the Goose we were off to Buzzie’s on the Bay, a spirited joint with a lively raffle. As the Vikes came in off the lake the fatigue was noticeable. The wind had really picked up and everything had become more difficult. I sat down with Carl Eller to ask him his thoughts of the event. “The event overall is great. It’s well staged, you get a chance to make all of these stops in different communities and everyone welcomes you. It’s really a nice deal.” The hall of famer was one of the most popular Vikings in attendance as evident by the long lines of autograph seekers at each blast point. He was admittedly not an avid snowmobiler, but this was not his first Blast. “Oh, it’s cold man, my fingers were froze. My thumb… it was supposed to have a heater but my thumb was like, frozen. I couldn’t move it off the throttle, maybe that’s why I was going so fast.”

I should have asked Carl if riding a snowmobile reminds him of his time riding a motorcycle in the Black 6.

Before leaving Buzzie’s Scott Studwell approached our table, which happened to be near his helmet and coat. This led to the following exchange:

Scott: What time does the sunset up here? Us: Oh, about 5:30 or 6. Where do you live these days? Scott: Eden Prairie.

Our day ended at the final “Official Blast Point,” the Bayview Bar. The sun had set, (although maybe not in Eden Prairie, we’re not sure) and the wind was unbearable resulting in near whiteout conditions on the lake. KFAN’s Dave Allen was heard making plans to drive a car back to the resort. Off in the corner of the bar, a couple of white PVC troughs were filled with water and a Miller Lite banner advertised minnow races, with proceeds benefiting the Children’s Fund. The young brunette working the races convinced Chris Kluwe and Carl Eller to try their hand at racing bait. In the end, Carl Eller was victorious beating the punter and two other participants. A local observer bought him a celebratory eggnog shot at the bar.

Who says Carl Eller and Chris Kluwe have nothing in common?

The 13th Annual Arctic Blast fortunately won’t be remembered for any inappropriateness but rather for the bitter cold that made the snowmobiling difficult. The kids who attended will remember those who signed their t-shirts, the bar owners will remember the added business and an untold number of needy children will remember the help made possible through this event.

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