John Clark of Hartland describes himself as a “soda agnostic,” but Pepsi products likely will always have a special place in the retired librarian’s heart.
That’s because last fall, he and his wife, Beth Clark, won a grand prize from Pepsi for a free trip to Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.
It’s the second time the couple has won a trip to a football game by entering a sweepstakes sponsored by the soda company. This time, the prize included airfare, the hotel, tickets to the big game and a special dining event, $750 spending money and all the memories they can make. It was overwhelming, Clark said.
When the New England Patriots won the AFC Championship game in January and advanced to play in the Super Bowl, the prize suddenly became even better.
“I’m a diehard Patriots fan,” John Clark said by telephone from Minneapolis on Saturday. “For them to be here, it was just icing on the cake.”
He and his wife, the retired director of nursing at Husson University, were having a great time taking in all of the spectacle that goes along with a major sports event. The last trip they won through Pepsi was to a game in Jacksonville, Florida 10 years ago, a trip they remember most for the chance to visit the zoo there.
“You have no understanding of the words ‘media circus’ until you’ve been involved in a Super Bowl,” he said. “We went down to the Mall of America yesterday. It was unbelievable. Almost everyone you’ve ever heard on sports talk radio had a booth set up.”
Even just getting to Minneapolis was memorable, he said. The Clarks flew from Bangor to Philadelphia and then got on a plane destined for Minneapolis that was packed with energized Philadelphia Eagles fans. When American Airlines handed out Eagles necklaces and towels to the passengers, Clark was uncowed and waved his Patriots’ glove in the air.
“I got booed good-naturedly,” he said.
In Minneapolis, it has seemed to the couple that Eagles fans outnumber Patriots fans — but fans of the Minnesota Vikings team have easily outnumbered everyone.
“One thing that has been a very pleasant surprise is that everyone we meet has been friendly and outgoing,” he said.
And unlike many in the city, the Clarks are unfazed by the cold and snow. He said the temperature dipped to 3 degrees Fahrenheit on Saturday.
“A lot of people are going around saying, ‘My God, how cold is it,’” he said. “We’re saying, ‘It’s like Maine, only flat.’”
Another Mainer enjoying her trip to the Super Bowl is Destiny Cook of Gorham, who was in Minneapolis with her son, a student at the University of Maine at Farmington, and her brother, a Maine native now living in Denver, Colorado. Cook, a huge Patriots fan, said after the team won the AFC Championship game on Jan. 21, she got a text message from her husband telling her that he had bought two tickets to the Super Bowl for her and their son. It took her a moment to process the news. Then she started freaking out, she remembered.
“His comment was, ‘We can’t unring that bell. You’re going,’” she said.
They’re having a great time so far, wandering through the sports-crazed city and trying their best to avoid aggressive Eagles fans who seem to be trying to stir up trouble with the Patriots fans.
“I’m not cocky. I don’t talk smack. I just have a smile on my face and say good luck to the Eagles fans,” Cook said. “I’m really excited and really nervous [about the game]. Philadelphia’s a really good team, with really good players.”
But she believes in her team, and looks forward to seeing them play. As well as to seeing Justin Timberlake, a favorite of hers, sing at halftime.
“It’s definitely worth the experience for sure,” Cook said.