Once again, Bud Grant’s whistle commanded a purple rush. A crowd of fans decked head-to-toe in Vikings gear anxiously awaited the start of the legendary coach’s annual garage sale Wednesday, which began precisely at 5 p.m. — no early sales, no matter how far you traveled (from Ireland, for two patrons) or how long you waited in his quiet Bloomington neighborhood.
“He gets worldwide attention on this,” said Gary Lodeon, a Vikings fan, friend of Grant’s and worker at the yard sale.
Grant, the Hall of Fame coach who turns 90 on Saturday, runs his sales with a leader’s discipline. As routine visitors know, this isn’t your average garage sale. Bud gave the crowd his annual warning of no haggling prior to blowing the whistle: “If you don’t want to buy it, the guy behind you will.”
Grant’s whistle sounded and a once-tamed crowd dashed toward coveted memorabilia.
The big-ticket item at the coach’s 12th sale was a miniature version of Bud himself. However, only 15 autographed bobbleheads of Grant and his old hunting dog, Boom, were available on site. More bobbleheads were coming Thursday, otherwise you’ll have to place an order.
So some elbows were pointed outward by eager buyers.
“I got the first bobblehead,” said Greg Litchy, a Minnesota native who flew from Florida for the sale. “What a cool guy. I remember seeing [Grant] at the old Met [Metropolitan Stadium] coaching; the whole persona, tough guy — no heaters on the sidelines.”
Litchy arrived around 11 a.m. Wednesday, six hours before the start of the sale and less than a day before his flight back to Florida. The 53-year-old lifelong Vikings fan also brought a piece of canvas from the collapsed Metrodome roof and a folding chair from the Met for Grant to add his signature among others from Vikings legends obtained by Litchy.
Those Grant signatures go for $25 a pop, no negotiations. Just ask Lodoen, the 20-year Vikings season-ticket holder and friend of Grant’s who stood guard in an orange vest behind Bud as he exchanged cash for autographs.
“Actually had a lady come up, she bought something and gave it to him, said I’d like to get this signed,” Lodoen recalled. “He’s like, no problem. So he signs it and he said, it’ll be $25. And she said well, I don’t have $25. So he’s like well, I’m taking this back.
“That’s the way it is. I think it gives you an idea of Bud and the way he was raised and the person he is. If he says something, you can take it to the bank.”
You won’t get a dollar off an item, but Bud will go an extra step for his customers by posing for photos, handing out free Vikings pens to kids and giving away old photos to autograph seekers who only came with a piece of paper. Many customers crossed state, sometimes country, borders. Within the first hour, Lodoen had already seen a couple from Ireland and fans from Winnipeg who purchased Grant’s autographs on their keepsakes.
Aside from working, Lodoen also brought two more headliners for sale: a Vikings-themed dune buggy ($9,995) and a speedboat ($39,995) with a purple cover and painted like a Viking ship, Norseman logo and all. Both were parked out front of Grant’s driveway, where Vikings memorabilia ranging from old playbooks to jackets and hats were available.
“Whoever buys the boat or the bug, I’ll throw Bud’s signature on it,” Lodoen said.
Daryl Oie, a St. Paul native from Sacramento, was enjoying a fishing vacation in Minnesota when he heard of Grant’s sale. So Oie had his girlfriend ship out two items from a 1966 Dodge Charger he’d remodeled into a Vikings-mobile. He bought two Bud Grant signatures, one on an interior visor and another on a book cataloging the eight years of work Oie put into the Charger.
“I’ll be glad to drive it around the new stadium for them,” Oie offered.
This could be Bud’s last sale, a three-day event that runs through Friday, however the Grant family isn’t ruling out a return in 2018.