by Vicki Ikeogu
It is one of – if not the – premiere sporting event in the world. And on Sunday, Feb. 4, all eyes will be on Minneapolis as the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles battle it out inside U.S. Bank Stadium in Super Bowl LII.
A special volunteer force has been suiting up to help welcome out-of-town visitors since Jan. 26.
Among the 10,000 volunteers are 10 individuals from Sartell and four people from St. Joseph.
Dubbed Crew 52, these volunteers, primarily from Minnesota, signed up to work in various sections surrounding the Super Bowl festivities.
“During the 10-day Super Bowl festivities we anticipate about one million visitors,” said Michael Howard, communications director with the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee. “And the key element to make everything run smoothly will be the 10,000 volunteers we have recruited to be the welcoming Minnesota face to help direct folks around the city.”
“I think I probably saw (the call for volunteers) on Facebook or in the news,” said Joanne Schneider of St. Joseph. “It doesn’t happen all the time and I do like exciting stuff.”
Schneider applied to be part of Crew 52 late last summer. While she has never been a volunteer for an event on this scale, some of her close friends and family members have.
“My sister had volunteered for the Olympics in Atlanta,” she said. “And I’ve known other people who have volunteered for like the Masters and different golf tournaments and stuff like that. And they always seem to have fun. So (volunteering for the Super Bowl) sounded fun.”
For Sartell resident Michael Hemmesch, being a part of the Super Bowl LII experience was an easy decision.
“I periodically checked the Minnesota Super Bowl Host Committee website,” he said. “And when I saw the chance to volunteer, I thought it would be a cool opportunity.”
Hemmesch volunteered at other national sporting events and had an idea of what potential volunteers would be required to do.
“I didn’t have any hesitation,” he said. “This is clearly the highest profile and biggest sporting event. Because of the fact this was the second time the Super Bowl has been hosted in Minnesota, I viewed it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
That feeling was shared among the approximately 30,000 applicants who signed up to be Crew 52 volunteers, Howard said.
“Within the first 48 hours of opening up the application process back in March we had about 9,000 people sign up,” Howard said.
Once the application period closed, the Super Bowl Host Committee narrowed the selection down to the top 15,000 applicants. Each of those potential volunteers was called to the cities for an interview.
“They primarily asked you about how well you were with people, what you knew about Minnesota and things like that,” said Jill Sieben, a volunteer from Sartell. “They obviously want people to come back to the state after the Super Bowl is finished.”
Volunteering comes easy to Sieben. She volunteered during Hurricane Katrina and through organizations such as Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“If I can volunteer every day before the Super Bowl it would be my cup of tea,” she said.
The interviews narrowed the pool of applicants to the final 10,000.
“Each volunteer is asked to fill three shifts during the 10-day stretch,” Howard said. “There are a couple of different jobs throughout the festival.”
Those jobs include airport greeters, assisting with the live concerts and entertainment on Nicollet Mall as part of Super Bowl Live and helping guests navigate the various skyways and hotels throughout the Twin Cities.
Schneider opted to work the Super Bowl Live concert series.
“I wanted to be in the middle of the action,” she said.
Hemmesch also elected to pick up shifts on Nicollet Mall. Sieben opted for skyway duty.
Each volunteer received Crew 52 gear including the signature purple Bold North mittens to make them easily identifiable to the general public.
“Overall our Crew 52 volunteers will be very engaged,” he said. “So many of them are taking an active role.”
Several training sessions during early January prepared the volunteers for their roles and answered any questions. The Super Bowl Host Committee even put together a private Facebook group to help the Crew 52 members connect.
“We’ve got volunteers from all across the state,” Howard said. “From (more than) 500 cities and townships. We also have about 10 percent of our volunteers coming from states like Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota. And there will also be some volunteers from Atlanta, the host of Super Bowl LIII, who will be getting a sense of what hosting a Super Bowl will be like.”
Throughout the 10-day festivities leading up to the big game, volunteers will be swarming the Twin Cities, serving as ambassadors for the state.
It will be an experience they won’t soon forget.
“I think people are really surprised this is more than just a football game,” Hemmesch said. “It’s really a celebration. It’s a time to showcase Minnesota on a national and even an international stage. By volunteering with Crew 52 it’s a nice way to give back to the state. It feels like a great honor and I’m excited. It’s going to be a great time.”
Sartell volunteers are: Mary Hoover, Nickolas Hoover, Hemmesch, Christine Ostlund, Lynne Janson, Kevin Kruse, Julie Meyer, Sieben, Abby Spanier and Timothy Tinius.
St. Joseph volunteers are: Candyce Thompson, Richard Schultz, Kenneth Twit and Schneider.
Vicki Ikeogu is a local freelance reporter from St. Cloud. Ikeogu is a 2015 mass communications graduate from St. Cloud State University. Ikeogu was previously the business reporter at the St. Cloud Times. She currently works as a transportation planner for the Saint Cloud Area Planning Organization.