Keeping Score

A Midwest Welcome: Super Bowl Host Indianapolis Trades Glitz for Knitting

Indianapolis residents are sending a clear message — they're cold and they're proud of it.

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Darron Cummings / AP

A patch is seen on a scarf that Bev Meska made in Indianapolis. Meska crocheted about 250 scarves for a "Super Scarves" program the Indianapolis Super Bowl host committee started to outfit Super Bowl volunteers with easily recognizable blue and white scarves.

(INDIANAPOLIS) — Most Super Bowl host cities love showing off their glitz. Miami has sunny beaches, New Orleans boasts Bourbon Street and San Diego has the perfect weather.

The folks here in heartland Indiana, however, will skip all that. They’re too busy showing off their scarves.

On the website of the Indianapolis Host Committee for Super Bowl 46, you’ll find a slickly produced video — of a white-haired, 82-year-old great-grandmother, professing her love of crocheting. In the clip, Bev Meska proudly holds up a copy of the Michigan City (Indiana) News Dispatch, and points to an article on the front page, headlined “A Super Effort.” She reads from the article: “It says the committee was bowled over by Meska’s 250 hand-crocheted Super Scarves.”

Match that, Miami.

Give Indianapolis credit. It has resisted the temptation to put on a Super Bowl façade that betrays its down-home, Midwestern DNA. And no Super Bowl initiative reflects this homespun host city more aptly than the blue-and-white scarves hanging around town. In order to keep the 8,000 Super Bowl volunteers warm during the week of the big game, the Host Committee hatched a plan a few years ago. It asked folks from the state to knit scarves for the erstwhile workers. The committee hoped for around 8,000 scarves, one for each volunteer. Instead, crotcheters from 45 states and four foreign countries (South Africa, Belgium, England and Canada) have produced 13,000 scarves and counting. “It has grown into this ‘share the love’ movement,” says Kimberly Harms, spokeswoman for the Super Scarves program. Yes, the scarves have a spokesperson.

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To get in the scarf-making spirit, Indiana residents have participated in “knit-ins” at libraries, cafes and shops across the state. (Inmates at a local women’s prison stitched the Indianapolis Super Bowl logo onto each scarf.) Both the New York Giants and New England Patriots players were given wooly neckwear upon their arrival in Indianapolis. Don’t expect the Patriots, however, to be sporting blue and white, the team colors of the Indianapolis Colts, their AFC rivals. “That’s just how it goes, I guess,” Patriots running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis says about the color scheme. “I’m not too big on wearing scarves. I’m happy for the souvenir.”

These scarves could be the fashion hit of the Super Bowl, kind of like the red mittens that flew off store shelves during the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. They’re not for sale, however: the host committee are giving the extras to Indianapolis concierge workers, taxi drivers and police officers. “Some movie stars have gotten involved,” Harms says of the knitting effort. “Vanna White did it…” Harms cut herself off, realizing she was stretching. “You can get them in totally different styles,” marvels Judy Thomas, a volunteer from Indianapolis assisting visitors arriving at the airport. Different patterns of blue and white, apparently, get some volunteers pretty excited.

When DeMario Vitalis offered to volunteer for the Host Committee, he expected to be planning parties and events.  When he was told about the need for a knitting executive, “I was like, ahh, okay,” Vitalis says. But Vitalis, now co-chairperson of the Super Scarves committee, has grown fond of needlepoint. He has personally knitted three scarves. “The program puts Indianapolis in a different realm of hospitality,” Vitalis says. “It gives the city a warm feeling.”

That warmth has made Meska, the great-grandmother from northern Indiana who assembled 250 scarves for the volunteers, a mini-celebrity in these parts. “I need a press agent,” Meska tells NewsFeed at the beginning of a phone chat. Meska started knitting while watching sports with her 12-year-old great-grandson, whom she picks up from school on most days. She couldn’t stop. “The face of the Super Bowl,” Meska says. “That’s what they call me down there.”

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