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Cihaks to tackle party at Super Bowl site

The outdoor stage on Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis on Jan. 30 after concerts were finished. Rae Yost/Stevens County Times

Mike Cihak retired from being the host of big Super Bowl parties two years ago but this weekend Cihak and his wife Jen hope to be at the biggest Super Bowl party in the nation The Cihaks won't be at the Super Bowl game but they plan to be on the Nicollet Mall in Minneapolis and in the Twin Cities this weekend.

"We will never be that close to a Super Bowl again," Cihak said of the chance to participate in Super Bowl activities during the weekend. The Feb. 4 game between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles is at US Bank Stadium but activities are scheduled for the Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis as well as the Mall of America, Minneapolis Convention Center and other sites in the Twin Cities area.

"I don't know logistically how it will be to get down there (downtown Minneapolis), We will play it by ear," Cihak said.

Cihak, the director of instructional and media technology at the University of Minnesota Morris, said it was Jen who convinced him they should try and take in Super Bowl activities.

"It's never going to come back. It's in Minnesota because of the new (US Bank) stadium," Cihak said. Normally, Minnesota is too cold to be the host site for Super Bowls, Cihak said.

It was a cold day in Minnesota when the couple was part of another historic game in Minnesota. The couple attended the Minnesota Vikings vs. the Seattle Seahawks 2016 Wildcard playoff game in the outdoor TCF Stadium, the home of the Minnesota Gophers. The Vikings played in that stadium while the US Bank Stadium was under construction.

"My wife said 'We've got to go. We're never going to have an outdoor playoff game again,'" Cihak said. The -6 temperature at kickoff tied the third coldest game NFL history, the website said.

The Cihaks created some of their own Super Bowl history over 20 years in Morris. Cihak started as a host of a small Super Bowl party while he was single and living in an apartment in Morris. The party stayed in his rental apartment or home for a few years before it needed more space. Eventually, Cihak used the Eagles Club. When that space became too small, he moved it to the Armory.

The party peaked at 142 invited guests, Cihak said. The armory was converted into a stadium atmosphere that included two jumbotrons built by Cihak. Guests arrived around noon to start tailgating indoors. Each party had a theme that has included Mardi Gras, Las Vegas, Hollywood and others.

"It was a party centered on food," Cihak said. "Everybody was required to bring a potluck item."

Cihak built field goal posts and installed 80 feet of artificial turf for a Super Bowl party field-goal kicking contest.

"We came up with faux sponsorships," Cihak said. The fake sponsors were used much like real sponsors of this year's Super Bowl activities. But by the final year, the Cihaks became the sole sponsor of all event activities because it just got too hard to say the names of all the sponsors, Cihak said with a laugh.

"Everything was a gimmick," Cihak said. But the fun grew as guests became secretive of the food they'd bring because they wanted to ensure chances of winning a prize, Cihak said.

For each party, "people were yelling and cheering," Cihak said. "It was like a stadium."

The atmosphere was always festive but Cihak knew the event had become something special when guests began to stand for the National Anthem. "That was like a stadium setting. You could hear a pin drop," Cihak said.

Although the Cihaks won't be in the stadium for the Feb. 4 Super Bowl, they plan to be part of the estimated 1 million guests who will turn out during the full Super Bowl weekend and week prior to the main event.

"I want to see the atmosphere," Cihak said. "You have to take opportunities to do things."

Cihak's only concern for the weekend is where they will watch the Super Bowl game. They are hoping to watch from a venue in the Nicollet Mall.

While the Vikings were one game shy of the Super Bowl this year, the Cihaks were tempted to resurrect the party from retirement. But the jumbo screens have been recycled or sent to the landfill. The goal posts are now with a friend's son.

"All good things come to an end," Cihak said.