Forget the NFL Draft, organized team activities and rookie minicamps. There has been one event that has officially kicked off the Minnesota Vikings’ new season for years.
Every spring, Vikings fans migrate to 8134 Oakmere Road in Bloomington to browse memorabilia and other assorted items piled up in the driveway of legendary head coach Bud Grant, the coach responsible for four Minnesota Super Bowl appearances, 158 career wins (plus 10 more in the postseason) and one hard-nosed attitude that shaped the franchise’s identity in its first few decades.
A friendly, tall man wearing a lime green security vest stood at the bottom of the driveway on Thursday afternoon. The man, who referred to himself as “Big Al,” is a friend of the Grant family. Just a cog in the Grant garage sale machine, he assumed the task of checking receipts before shoppers strolled back to their cars. This year was his first experience at a Bud Grant garage sale, and he was impressed by the sheer number of visitors.
“He’s just an icon,” Big Al said of Grant. “How many other celebrities would announce their home address to the press and welcome fans to come visit?”
The sale, which started on Wednesday night and wraps up Friday evening, included everything from fishing equipment to board games to Vikings gear. A limited-edition Bud Grant bobblehead was the headliner item this year.
But for most fans, it’s not about searching for the hottest deals on vintage Vikings jerseys. It’s about buying a few items that come with a story behind it.
Take longtime Vikings fan Maynard Augst, for example.
Augst has been to Grant’s last four garage sales. A few years back, he bought a rocking chair made by Grant’s grandmother. Augst left the sale Wednesday night carrying a pair of deer antlers, only to return the next day for more browsing.
Countless other Vikings fans have similar stories.
One fan bought what Big Al described as a “purple and gold minnow bucket” for $48. It might seem expensive at first glance, but that fan can now carry a piece of Grant’s legacy on every fishing trip.
“If you can’t afford it, or you think it’s too much, don’t buy it,” Grant said in an interview with Pro Football Talk. “The guy behind you will!”
The most popular (and priceless) item at the sale was Grant himself.
A line of patient Vikings fans covered the right side of the driveway and curved into the front yard for most of Thursday afternoon, bringing collectibles of all shapes and sizes for Grant to sign (for a $25 fee, which some might consider a bargain). Around noon, Grant — who turns 90 years old Saturday — took a well-earned break from inking autographs for about an hour. Not one Vikings fan left the line.
Passionate? Yes. Crazy? Maybe, but Big Al summed it up best.