Thirty five years ago, the national economy was in the tank, the United States was in a crisis of confidence and gas prices were surging for the first time in U.S. history.
At the same time, rumors began to persist that the Vikings might move out of Minnesota because the stadium they were playing in was little more than a landfill (a recurring theme in stadium history in Minnesota). Destination scuttlebutt centered on Memphis. But the Vikings organization was at the front end of giving to those in need. Back when Calvin Griffith was trying to find a way to take foul balls away from baseball fans rather than pay for a fresh one, the Vikings began the Vikings Children's Fund – a charity to give back to the community and an effort geared toward childhood diseases that cut lives far too short.
Thirty five years later, the Vikings are celebrating one of their marquee events – the Minnesota Vikings Ride For Life on Saturday. In its 19th year, the Ride For Life is the summer equivalent to the Arctic Blast snowmobile rally around Lake Mille Lacs. The summer version involves motorcycles making their way up I-35 on a 50-mile convoy from the Twin Cities to Hinckley, Minn.
The rally will begin at the Blue Heron Grill in Hugo – north of St. Paul. It will proceed up I-35 to Grand Casino Hinckley. Current and former players will be available for autographs and photo opportunities at both locations – 10:45 to 11:30 a.m. at the Blue Heron and after 1:15 p.m. at Hinckley.
Players scheduled to participate include current Vikings Phil Loadholt, Everson Griffen, Charlie Johnson, Tyrone McKenzie and Bobby Felder, as well as Vikings alumni Ted Brown, Stu Voigt and Bob Lurtsema. For those more into the photo op than autograph mode, the Vikings cheerleaders and mascot Viktor will also be on hand.
The event is sponsored by Miller Lite, the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe, Total Luxury Limousine and the Minnesota State Patrol. Day of event registration will begin at 9 a.m. in Hugo and 11:30 a.m. in Hinckley. The cost to participate in the event is $15, with all proceed going to the VCF. As part of the registration fee, fans will be eligible for prize drawings. More than $20,000 in prizes, including $5,000 in cash, will be given away.
In its 35-year history, the VCF has raised more than $10 million with half of that being allocated to support research at the University of Minnesota's Department of Pediatrics.
For more information, go to the team's official website or call the event hotline at 952-828-6577. With the season drawing near, the Ride For Life is one of the events that fans can get actively involved in – whether they're riders or not – that helps a cause that is worth fighting for (or riding for).
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.
The Vikings have a ton of young talent that will be fighting for precious few backup roster spots.…