One thing was all but certain leading up to Sunday’s Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis: It would be a cold one. So organizers set out to prove to its estimated 125,000 out-of-town visitors that it would be possible not only to endure the Minnesota cold, but enjoy it. They billed it “Bold North.”
They installed a zip line over the Mississippi River, where tourists and locals alike could brave below-zero temperatures to soar 100 feet above. The 10,000 available tickets sold out within hours.
They planned 10 days of winter-themed festivities. They coordinated a Prince-themed flash mob for Saturday, during which dozens of Super Bowl volunteers, clad in purple aviator hats, danced to the Minnesota-native’s “Let’s Go Crazy” — in the presence of a 70-foot ice palace in St. Paul. They welcomed throngs of bundled-up visitors to the snow-dusted downtown Minneapolis streets to watch an athlete perform a back flip 100 feet in the air — on a snowmobile.
And on Sunday, Mother Nature lived up to the hype. The temperature outside U.S. Bank Stadium was 2 degrees at kickoff, marking the coldest Super Bowl on record. Even though their Minnesota Vikings came one win short of playing in the Super Bowl, Minnesotans were proud.
“This is the winter capital of America,” Eric Dayton, the state’s unofficial “King of Cold,” told The Washington Post on Sunday night. “There’s no one that does the cold and the snow better than we do.”
The Super Bowl game and festivities capped four years of planning and fundraising by Minneapolis organizers. But they also showcased a long-running effort to alter perceptions about the state — and its infamously cold winters.
“We used to talk about cute things like ‘a hot time in Minnesota’ and tell people that we’re more than just a cold place,” Marilyn Carlson Nelson, one of the chairs of the Super Bowl Host Committee, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “But Bold North is different because it recognizes we are a cold place and it gives us pride in that.”
“We really wanted to take control of the narrative and let people know who we are,” said Dayton, who has been at the helm of the branding efforts. Dayton’s family is, after all, ingrained in the fabric of the state. His father is Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D) and his great-great-grandfather George Draper Dayton founded Dayton’s department store, which later became Target Corp.
It all began in 2013, when Eric Dayton and his brother, Andrew, came up with an idea for a new way to think about Minnesota. They were tired of hearing the state referred to as “flyover country,” or associated with stereotypes from the movie “Fargo.” Even the “Midwest” didn’t quite fit the Minnesota identity. They wanted to find a mantra that could capture a Minnesotan’s toughness, resourcefulness and optimism. The sense of community, creativity and year-round love of the outdoors. The brothers settled on “The North.”
They debuted the slogan on 150 stocking hats, which they sold at Askov Finlayson, their local retail store. Within four days, all of the hats were purchased. It was a hit.
“They just got it, intuitively,” Eric Dayton said. “They’d look down and say, ‘Yep, that’s it. . . . I’m never calling it the Midwest again.’ ”
“The North to me is more about who we are than it is where we are,” he added. To him, the slogan simply encapsulates traditions and lifestyles Minnesotans have held for generations.
“Together, we overcome challenges,” the Askov Finlayson website states. “And we’re better for it. From constraint is born creativity, which is the secret to our success. That, and good gear. Because there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”
Eric Dayton’s mission carries over into several businesses across the Twin Cities. His restaurant, the Bachelor Farmer, is Nordic-inspired. His Minneapolis bar, Marvel Bar, serves up icy cocktails. He also co-founded the Great Northern, a 10-day celebration of winter that brings together signature events such as the U.S. Pond Hockey Championship and the St. Paul Winter Carnival. He has even called on the city to remove its 9.5-mile-long heated skyway system, which connects buildings downtown.
In recent years, “The North” seems to have popped up all over the state. It’s the slogan of the Minnesota United soccer team: “The North is Rising.” It’s been used by the Vikings: “Defend the North. This is the North. Sound the North,” the Star Tribune reported. A Timberwolves basketball ad also used it: “The North is on the Rise.”
When it came time to plan for the Super Bowl festivities, the organizing committee decided on its own variation of Dayton’s slogan, “Bold North.”
He thinks the spotlight of the Super Bowl came at just the right time for Minneapolis, with its growing entrepreneurial and arts communities. He hopes the festivities encourage out-of-towners to visit the Land of 10,000 Lakes all year long.
“Hopefully they come away with a different impression of winter in Minnesota,” he said.
One Minnesotan asked visitors to leave something behind in Minneapolis, too. With all of the out-of-towners buying extra winter gear to brave the weather, Nancy Killilea decided to begin a collection drive for the homeless community. She set up boxes outside hotels where visitors can ditch any winter clothes they won’t need back at home.
“Wherever you are going, it’s warmer than here,” an ad for the collection drive reads.
Sunday night’s Super Bowl had its share of glitches. Traffic backed up downtown, protesters briefly blocked a stadium entrance, and some fans faced crowd bottlenecks in and around the stadium.
Indeed, football fans and celebrities alike were not shy about remarking on the bone-chilling cold in the Twin Cities.
“Whoever said ‘The cold never bothered me anyway’ has never been to Minneapolis,” tweeted “Frozen” star Idina Menzel, who performed late last month as part of the Super Bowl LIVE series.
“It’s cold as hell,” Kelly Clarkson said during a performance at the National Football League’s 52 Live party on Sunday afternoon. “I don’t think I could live here.”
But there was another shared takeaway among visitors: Minnesotans, as everyone says, are just so nice.
As Eagles fan Thomas Mongillo and his son Martin stood in line for a rally Saturday, at least three Minnesotans gave them high-fives and wished them good luck, he told the Star Tribune. This was just two weeks after the Eagles obliterated the Vikings in the conference championships, taking away Minnesota’s spot in the Super Bowl.
“You don’t find hospitality like this anywhere,” Mongillo said.
It’s so cold in Minneapolis that the ice in my cup is warming my hands— (((Eric Schinfeld))) (@ESchinfeld) February 5, 2018