Taste Of the Timberwolves Brings Players, Fans Together For Great Cause
Scott Casanova of Hope for the City had never been to Taste of the Timberwolves before. Braving the snow and making the trek from Eagan to Target Center on a snowy Thursday night, Casanova was most excited to take part in the festivities because his son was not only able to meet some of the Wolves players but do so alongside a youth basketball friend of his.
From what he could tell, it was a success from the start.
“They’re having a great time,” Casanova said, joking: “I can’t even find them.”
The reason for the free mobility is simple: The 19th annual Taste of the Timberwolves allowed fans the opportunity to roam freely throughout the Target Center floor, tasting fare from top restaurants around the Twin Cities while meeting players, getting autographs and snapping pictures. Taste, which is the signature fundraising event for the FastBreak Foundation, helps fuel the organization’s ability to help underprivileged kids throughout the year.
Not only does Taste of the Timberwolves allow fans of all ages the ability to meet their favorite players away from the typical basketball setting, but it helps bolster the team’s community involvement for 12 months.
It’s a night those who are able to attend will not soon forget.
“It isn’t just for the children fans, it’s for the adult fans, too,” said Nancy McCabe of the Roger & Nancy McCabe Foundation, a longtime partner of the FastBreak Foundation. “You can see them, and it’s the same setting. Their hair is down, they are more themselves. It’s just a nice way to ask them questions and have your picture taken with them. It really is.”
Taste opens up around 6 p.m. with a red-carpet welcome for the fans entering through the Huberts Tunnel. They enter the north half of the arena bowl, where restaurants from across the Twin Cities are stationed with samples of their top menu items. That’s where the players, coaches and front office members are stationed, too. They rotate around to the different vendors and mingle with fans, sign autographs on basketballs and take pictures throughout the evening.
In the middle of court is a silent auction area, equipped with prize packages and framed sports memorabilia. Among the framed artwork was a signed Michael Jordan photo as he took the game-winning shot in the 1982 NCAA championship game for North Carolina, a Miracle on Ice photo with a signed American flag, A photo of Bobby Orr’s leaping, Stanley Cup-clinching goal in 1972 and a Mickey Mantle framed autograph picture.
“I told Flip, it has the neon glow to it,” general manager Milt Newton said. “The fact that it is where the basketball court would be, it kind of ties in to Timberwolves. The players are readily accessible, which is a good thing. I’ve walked by each station, talking to some of the guys and they seem to be enjoying what they are doing, which tells me that they have bought in.”
At the midway point of the evening, about an hour and a half in, fans move into the south end of the lower bowl where they are able to bid in a live auction. Among the prizes were trip packages for a road trip on the team plane, a trip to All-Star Weekend 2015 and much more.
After the auction is one final opportunity for fans to make one more donation for the FastBreak Foundation before the players play an annual game emceed by B-Wright. This year was a Wolves Fusion game in which the players, split into two teams, tried to guess which two Wolves players’ faces were mashed into one portrait.
From start to finish, the goal of Taste for the Timberwolves is to try and raise money for worthy causes throughout the year while giving the fans a chance to see another side of the players—one that isn’t predicated on double-doubles, highlight dunks and flashy assists.
It’s why so many fans and partners of the FastBreak Foundation take part year after year.
“At Spire we’re all about giving back and this is just such a great example of that,” said Dan Stoltz, CEO of Spire Federal Credit Union. “And the foundation and what they are all about and giving back to our communities. We partner with the Timberwolves, especially during the December Season of Giving. This is kind of a part of that whole process and also a chance to kind of a mingle with the players and get to know them that way too.”
Thursday’s event followed suit, just like the Tastes that came before.
Jane Tressel was taking part in Taste of the Timberwolves for the first time this season. A two-year Timberwolves member, the event met her expectations to try and mingle with players and get to know their personalities.
Glenn Deering, who was also here for his first Taste, didn’t quite know what was in store when he showed up. He said some clients of his set him up to come, and it was a very cool experience.
And Markus Sturmfels, who was attending his second Taste of the Timberwolves event, said the first time around when he came he was star-struck. He didn’t allow himself to take photos with the players or fully take in the experience. This time around was different.
“But then now, my mom went last year and the year before that and she told me it’s more like OK, so this year I’m more comfortable and I’ve been taking pictures and stuff,” Sturmfels said.
That’s what Taste is all about. The fans, the players and the team coming together to make memories during one special night at Target Center, and the effects of that one night helps impact lives throughout the year.
“Anytime you get to interact with the fans it’s special, it means a lot,” guard A.J. Price said. “Because, with the fans you wouldn’t be anything. So, I think it’s a great idea.”