Local performers show what Minnesota is made of during Super Bowl Halftime

As Justin Timberlake showed the world his talent during the Super Bowl Halftime Show at U.S. Bank Stadium, Minnesotans showed they have some skills of their own.  

“I was calm up until that point and then it finally hit me, and then the drum major walked by, and it was so much fun,” said U of M Marching Band Trumpet Player Keegan Bunker. “Everyone is screaming, running through the tunnel, it was a great experience.”

Bunker was one of more than 300 musicians from the U of M Marching band performing during the halftime show. 

Also known as the “Pride of Minnesota,” the band learned they would be a part of the show back in December. The band members and their parents have had to keep this confidential ever since. 

“It was tough. It was really hard,” said U of M Drumline Captain Emily Petersen. 

“If this leaked out into the media, it would jeopardize our participation. And they obviously did not want to do that. So everything was our ‘Super-Secret’ performance,” said U of M Marching Band Director, Betsy McCann.

Some band members were “fans” during the club and opening scenes, others held large mirrors to the sky during Timberlake’s song “Mirrors.”

Several had a spotlight role, dressed in suits and playing their instruments right behind Timberlake during “Suit and Tie.” 

“I think it was cool looking around at our band family, seeing how joyful everyone was, how appreciative, the energy,” Petersen said. 

The group spent more than 50 hours in rehearsal, some with Justin Timberlake himself. 

“He felt like a normal guy and you could tell he really cared about everyone there and really enjoyed having everyone to help out with his performance,” Bunker said. 

“It was kind of like being at a Justin Timberlake concert for two weeks,” Petersen said.  

Rehearsals included time at TCF Bank Stadium, the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and at U.S. Bank Stadium. 

“Very appreciative. He came up to me during that time at the State Fairgrounds and he was like, 'you guys are crushing it.' And I'm like, 'what do I say to that,'” Petersen said.

Now, the U of M Marching Band is hoping to use their time in the limelight to raise money so they can travel with the Gophers to away games. For the past two decades, they have only had the funding to travel to bowl games. 

In addition to the U of M Marching band, more than two dozen members of the Eden Prairie Dance Team also performed during the show. 

“I think it was the best experience of my life, personally,” said Eden Prairie Dance Captain Ashlynn Neumayer. 

The team also spent more than 50 hours in rehearsal ahead of the show. During the performance, the young women held mirrors and danced in the choreographed set for the grand finale. 

“That feeling, running on the field, is something I'll never forget and I can't even explain everything that I was feeling, running on and knowing that millions of people were watching, it's just indescribable,” Neumayer said.