Special Report: Where's Vinnie?

Baihly Warfield
Updated: January 11, 2019 02:29 PM



HERMANTOWN, Minn. - When it comes to being a Vikings fan in the Holt household, there's no sitting on the sidelines. 

"I mean, you live in Minnesota," Jan Holt said. 

She and her husband John have been season ticket-holders for years. Both of their fandom began about as soon as they were born, although John admits to being the bigger fan of the two. 

"He's tamed down, though," Jan said. "Oh, you didn't want to ever sit by him or have him in the same room if they weren't winning." 

"It used to be until about Tuesday before I'd come out of it," John said. "But I've calmed down. Age does that."

Although if John has calmed down, you sure can't tell by his basement. The main room is a regular treasure trove of Vikings memorabilia. 

There is a 20-year-old bottle of Bud Grant wine sitting on a bookshelf, collectible ornaments hang from the ceiling, newspapers clippings fill the walls, and snow globes and bobble heads occupy the shelves. 

John and Jan even have a jar of dirt they collected from the original Metropolitan Stadium. 

"It was so cold that day," John said. 

Through Vikings victories and defeats and all over the world, the Holts have been collecting. 

"This helmet came from down in Mexico somewhere," John said, pointing to a metal helmet with horns hanging on a wall. 

In Europe, they picked up enough miniature Vikings for at least a nine-man team. 

"I was stationed over in Germany, and that's where we got a lot of the wood carvings," John said.

Eventually, they decided to go bigger with the wood carvings. They found a chainsaw artist in Nisswa, Minnesota to draft 6-foot, 1,200-pound Vinnie to their team. 

"We had to rent a truck," Jan said.

"With a liftgate to bring it home," John added. 

They spent more than $2,000 on their new mascot.

Over 14 years, Vinnie really became one of the Holts. Their nieces and nephews took photos with him when they came to visit, and he was even featured in some of John and Jan's Christmas cards. 

But one June morning in 2014, John went outside to get the paper. And Vinnie's spot in the driveway was empty. 

"I just couldn't believe it," John said. 

They called the Hermantown Police Department, and it became clear this was no audible. This play had been drawn up. And under the cover of darkness, Vinnie had been carted off the field. 

"They had a two-wheel dolly," John explained. "When the police came, the Hermantown police, they could see the tracks going up the driveway."

That was all the evidence they had. Police said they had no leads or a suspect, and the case has since been suspended. 

The Holts thought maybe some high schoolers had nabbed him as a prank since it was close to graduation. 

"Next door neighbor, he combed ditches," John remembered. 

But nearly half a decade later, holiday decorations fill the spot on the driveway that is rightfully Vinnie's. And John and Jan still don't know who took him or why. 

But they hope now that some time has gone by, someone with information might come forward. 

"You never know. It could be in North Dakota, it could be in Iowa, Wisconsin," Jan said. "You just don't know."

John says the Vikings are a year away from a playoff-caliber season. But they're holding onto hope that Vinnie could make a return this offseason. 

They know they might need another Minnesota Miracle. But they figure it's always worth a shot. 

"We would like to know where it is, if it's around, if it's not around," Jan said, "Just to put some closure to it."


Baihly Warfield

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