WILLMAR — When the Willmar Stingers decided to have a free lunch on the team for fans, team co-owner Ryan Voz had no idea what to expect.
It had never been done before. But that’s been true with a lot of things in 2020, the year of the coronavirus pandemic.
What happened left Voz and team personnel pleasantly surprised.
The Stingers served more than 800 ballpark-style box lunches to fans pulling up in their cars Wednesday at Bill Taunton Stadium. Stingers personnel delivered grilled hotdogs, chips and bottled water to fans via curbside delivery.
“We didn’t know what kind of response we’d get,” Voz said. “But it was overwhelming.”
From about 10:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., Voz said a steady stream of cars created a line of traffic coming into the stadium parking lot. Willmar police handled traffic control.
“I just sent them an email thanking them for their help,” Voz said. “There was a constant line of traffic.”
The box lunches were a promotional idea to celebrate what would have been the 2020 Northwoods League opener. Because of the pandemic, the league has pushed back the season’s start. The 22-team league has franchises in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, North Dakota and Thunder Bay, Ontario.
Voz and co-owner Marc Jerzak are hopeful that a 2020 season will take place with a delayed start. They are just not sure when.
Currently, there are limits on gatherings in the state. The team, which is in its 11th season in Willmar, has a plan in place when Minnesota allows gatherings of up to 250 people.
When that phase is introduced in Minnesota, Voz said the Stingers would be able to play.
“We’re waiting for word from Gov. Walz,” Voz said.