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Marshall Welcomes Vikings 'Town Takeover' Before Major Storm

The Vikings Town Takeover of Marshall Minnesota included a school visit at Parkside Elementary, a business luncheon and a KFAN radio show from Wooden Nickel.

MARSHALL, Minn. — The Vikings "Town Takeover" of Marshall is to be continued.

A bevy of celebratory events were frozen in their tracks on Friday when Winter Storm Xanto brought blizzard conditions to Southwestern Minnesota. The historic storm began dumping a foot-and-a-half of snow on the area that morning before making its way to the Twin Cities.

The team made it through part of the planned festivities to celebrate Marshall's selection as the "Minnesota Football Program of the Year" by the Vikings, Innovative Office Solutions and the Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation. Marshall's selection was joined by the accompanying "In the Game" Award, which includes a $10,000 grant from Innovative Office Solutions' InSports Foundation.

Before the teeth of the storm hit, Vikings mascot Viktor visited Park Side Elementary School and West Side Elementary Schools for Fuel Up to Play 60 educational programs.

Viktor began the day at Park Side where attentive and engaged students and teachers at the school participated in the "SKOL Chant" to start the program.

Meanwhile, older fans were filling the Wooden Nickel on Main Street to enjoy a live KFAN 100.3-FM broadcast of 9 to Noon by "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen.

The crowd was boisterous and undeterred by looming weather, excited about the Timberwolves and Wild making the NBA and NHL playoffs, the return of the Twins baseball season and multiple Vikings offseason talkers.

Tom Compton, a Minnesota native who played collegiately at the University of South Dakota and signed with his hometown team this offseason, and Xavier Rhodes, who was on his way back from his hometown of Miami, called into the show.

Allen also interviewed Marshall Head Football Coach Terry Bahlmann about his team's success and the community's selection as football program of the year.

After the interview with Allen, Bahlmann told Vikings.com it is "a great honor for us and our community" to be selected.

"It was our third year in a row to go to state," Bahlmann said. "We lost a lot [of players] the year before; Blaise Andries, our lineman that's playing for the Gophers now, so there was a little, 'What kind of a team are we going to have?'

"Our seniors did a great job," Bahlmann added. "We were led by Jefferson Lee, who ended up with 108 career touchdowns and Trey Lance, our quarterback who is going to the [North Dakota State] Bison. Our boosters did a great job of getting this information out there, and the Vikings following us. It's a great honor for our community and our program to be recognized statewide."

The Vikings Town Takeover of Marshall Minnesota included a school visit at Parkside Elementary, a business luncheon and a KFAN radio show from Wooden Nickel.

The Tigers will be replacing 11 seniors on offense, but Bahlmann said, "Our expectations will be what they've always been."

Bahlmann, who is completing a term as president of the Minnesota Football Coaches Association, said he appreciated the grant from Innovative Office Solutions and the support for high school football that he has seen from the Vikings. He didn't let the impending weather get him down.

"It's been exciting. Everything has been a lot of fun," Bahlmann said. "It's great to talk football in April and have everybody out wearing Vikings jerseys and talking Marshall football."

After Allen wrapped the show, he headed to Brau Brothers Brewing Company to emcee a business luncheon catered by Schwan's Food Service.

The program featured comments from Pro Football Hall of Fame safety Paul Krause, Vikings Vice President of Legal and Human Resources Karin Nelsen, Executive Director of Social Impact Brett Taber and InSports Foundation Founder Max Smith.

Krause participated in a Q & A with attendees, recounting the time that fellow Hall of Famer Bud Grant tabbed him as a partner in a bocce tournament at training camp, winning 10 division titles in a 12-season span and setting the NFL career record with 81 interceptions, a mark that is going to be incredibly difficult for anyone to catch.

Krause said he enjoyed connecting with fans and values their continued appreciation.

"I think it's great. We had a good football team," Krause said. "We went to four Super Bowls, we lost four Super Bowls, but the fans are great. The fans don't forget us. It's been a long time since I played, but we can go anywhere, basically, in the United States and find a Vikings fan."

Nelsen, who grew up about an hour southeast of Marshall in Westbrook, was joined by her parents, Marlowe and Donna Nelsen. She recalled watching Vikings games with her father and the amount of enjoyment the Westbrook community drew from its 9-man football team on Fridays each fall.

"I would not be wearing the Purple today, I would not have dreamed of joining the Minnesota Vikings had I not grown up in a football family," Nelsen said. "Friday night football was important in the Westbrook community, as it is here in Marshall. We had 9-man football and were state champions in 1982."

Nelsen, who is entering her third season with the Vikings after an 18-year career at Cargill, spoke at her school that morning and told Vikings.com it was "really special" to be back in Southwest Minnesota.

"This kind of town is really important to Southwest Minnesota," Nelsen said. "I know they've had a wildly successful football program, and that's wonderful, but Marshall is about a lot more than its football program."

Nelsen said she dreamed of working in professional sports, with football as the first choice, after graduating from law school.

"I pinch myself sometimes to know that it's come full-circle that way, that I can work for my team, the team I cheered for growing up," Nelsen said. "The Minnesota Vikings are the Minnesota Vikings, and out-state Minnesota cares so much about this team. It really is a dream come true."

Nelsen quickly recapped the Vikings season and the job that Minnesota did in hosting Super Bowl LII, and Taber explained future goals of the Minnesota Vikings Foundation.

"It really is truly magical to see all of the members of the community that are here representing Marshall," Taber said. "What we have seen for three years [of the Minnesota Football Program of the Year] is spectacular, and I think it's a tribute to the state of Minnesota, how we champion community here, and what that community means, you know, uplifting and using high school football as that point to strengthen. It's about what football does and what football means in our communities, how we treat each other and raise up our young people. We thank all of you for the difference you are making in the lives of young people every day."

Smith, who played college hockey and golf at Concordia College-Moorhead, said the InSports Foundation is proud to provide access to sports participation through the annual grants that have been awarded to Caledonia, Morris and Marshall.

"We just hope that money can go to continue to grow sports and football in these communities," Smith said. "We want more kids to be able to have access to playing sports, and I think $10,000 should help a lot more kids play."

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Businesses entered a storefront decoration contest, and Sole Mates — a footwear and clothing boutique that changed its name to SKOL Mates as part of the decor — won with an elaborate display that spanned decades of Vikings lore. The display included framed photos from over the years, from a 1961 cover story by *LIFE *magazine to a print that was made by the *Star Tribune *after the Minneapolis Miracle.

Lucas Hilgemann, who owns the store with his wife, Jessica, was presented a custom Vikings jersey. Lucas said he's been a fan since he could walk and took two of the couple's three children to the Vikings dramatic playoff win over the Saints.

"We've always been large Vikings fans," Lucas said. "Our basement is full of memorabilia. Every Friday is Purple Friday at the shoe store we own, and we really took it to heart when we found out that the Vikings were coming and really went with [decorating the store]."

The display included apparel, collectibles and even a locker that was set up with a Chester Taylor jersey.

Smith said seeing the overlap of Vikings and community pride is one of his favorite aspects of the Town Takeover.

"Every Town Takeover that we've done, we drive into town, and the whole town is painted purple," Smith said. "There's banners and flags, and people are putting Vikings things in their storefronts. … It's a pretty special feeling."

Krause, Compton and Stephen Weatherly originally were scheduled to make appearances that evening, but the weather overruled.

A youth clinic and town festival that were slated for Saturday were postponed until a future date.

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