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Bud Grant's Garage Sale Draws Vikings Fans from Across the U.S.

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. –Every year, Bud Grant pulls his coaching whistle out of retirement for one night.

"The whistle signifies the beginning of the garage sale," Grant tells me. "I'll drop the barrier at 5 o'clock, and you better get out of the way."

In the 12th year of Grant's garage sale – and third that it's been heavily advertised beforehand – Vikings fans flock by the hundreds for the chance to own something of Grant's and receive an autograph and handshake from the legendary coach himself.  

Some fans come from all over, but some travel farther than others – 935 miles, to be exact.

Ron Rogers drove all the way from Dallas, Texas, to be at the opening day of Grant's garage sale Wednesday. After missing the 2015 event, Rogers carefully watched the calendar – and Twitter – for news of this year's sale.

View images from the 2016 version of Bud Grant's garage sale.

"I actually tweeted at Bud, and he responded and said they were going to have the sale, and I made plans to come up here," Rogers says, holding two throwback purple Vikings helmets. "I've always wanted to meet him."

Originally from Circle Pines, Minnesota, Rogers says he proudly wears purple and gold in Dallas.

"I grew up here, spent all my youth here as a Vikings fan," Rogers says. "I went to the old Met [Stadium] and went to the Metrodome when it first opened.

"The military brought me to Texas," Rogers added. "But the Vikings are really my true upbringing, and I just love the Vikings. It seems the older I get, the more I love it."

Just before 5 p.m., Grant shuffles down to the end of the driveway to offer instructions, the most important of which being no negotiations.

"Remember, if you think it's too much… don't buy it," Grant says, prompting plenty of laughter from waiting customers.

"And don't sprain an ankle," Grant says, wagging his finger. He offers the smallest of smirks before adding, "My liability isn't paid up."

When the whistle sounds, Rogers hurries up to a table, quickly finding a small, white, marble football etched with the Vikings logo and colors.

"I saw this and just had to have it," Rogers tells me.

The inventory varies from year to year, always including a variety of Vikings and non-Vikings items. Each year, Grant says he finds a few new items to pull out and part with – for the right price, of course. For $200, fans can purchase a scrapbook filled with newspaper clippings from all the Vikings games Grant coached.

"Somebody compiled them and gave them to me 20-some years ago," Grant explains. "I've looked at them enough and don't have to look at them anymore, so I'll part with them."

Another scrapbook, priced at $300, contains a treasury of fan letters and drawings mailed to Grant by young Vikings fans.

"People come to garage sales with the idea of buying something. Generally, they'll find something to buy, because there's a variety of stuff here," Grant says. "They don't come here and walk away without anything."

Grant sits in his customary spot near the garage, greeting fans and signing autographs for anyone who's made a minimum purchase of 25 dollars.

Grant never seems to run out of camping and hunting equipment, and guests carefully sort through fishing lures and pocket knives. From a pair of mounted moose antlers, to an antique toy fire engine, to a rooster weather vane, Grant's sale has it all.

Guests file through with item after item, and no one dares suggest less than sticker price. Although negotiations are frowned upon, Grant breaks his own rule after signing a fan's football with a silver paint pen.

"How much for your pen?" Grant asks.

Although the fan says he'll gladly give the pen to Grant, the Hall of Fame coach reaches for a photo, lying near his staple can of Tab cola. Carefully, he inks his name across the top.

"Here you go," Grant says. "A second autograph in exchange for keeping your pen."

About 30 minutes into the sale, I ask Grant how things are going.  

"I can't see through the people, so it must be going well," he answers.

One fan, Barb Field, says this year's sale is special because it would have been her father's 100th birthday today.

"He loved Bud Grant," Field she says, smiling. "They had the same personality."

Field also visited Grant's sale in 2013, and she said it was a great experience to meet her father's favorite coach in person.

"We got him to smile," Field remembers of Grant, often characterized by his stoic sideline expression. "He never smiled at all, but we got him to smile."

Grant will be celebrating his own birthday on Friday, which is also the last day of this year's garage sale.

"I'll be 89," Grant says. "Maybe for my 90th I'll celebrate. As you get older, you celebrate less. Maybe every decade, but not every year."

While he isn't planning a birthday party, Grant is looking forward to wrapping up another successful garage sale and leaving on Sunday for a fishing trip up north.

"I'll go up for a while and hopefully catch some fish," Grant says. "But if not? Well, it's great to be alive."

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