By Tim Krohn
---- — MANKATO — The first Vikings tailgate welcoming parties started with a rainstorm, but stalwart fans who showed up huddled under tents until the skies cleared, hoping to catch a glimpse of players arriving for training camp at Minnesota State University.
Sometimes spotting the players was easy as they honked their horns and some rolled down their windows to take cellphone pictures of the crowds. Other times it was a bit of a guessing game with many fans cheering on every high-priced vehicle that went by.
"We look for the Escalades," said Jane Unzeitig, referring to the luxury Cadilac SUVs. She and her grandson Ryan Ploog were at the tailgate party at the corner of Stoltzman and Stadium roads.
Other tailgating gatherings were in St. Peter and outside Dairy Queen west in Mankato, where people were eating purple ice cream and taking photos with Vikings cheerleaders, two of whom were stationed at each of four sites.
While the rain kept numbers down to a couple of dozen at most sites, a group of about 50 fans was posted at the corner of Ellis Avenue and Stadium Road on the MSU campus, just a couple of blocks from Julia Sears residence hall where players were checking in.
Shane Polz of North Mankato was there with his young children, Caleb and Brenna. "This is a great idea," he said of the new tailgate welcoming parties. "It's too bad it rained."