DRUMMER FEATURE DECEMBER 4, 2016

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Vikings cheerleader loves to dance

Buffalo High School graduate Jessica Bjore tried out three years ago and has made the squad this year and last year

By Ed DuBois

Not everything is glamorous and exciting for a Minnesota Vikings cheerleader.  For example, Jessica Bjore said she gets up at 3 a.m. on game days, and everyone is on the field at 7 a.m. to practice formations "so we get it all fresh in our brains."

A 2004 Buffalo High School graduate, Jessica spends about 15-25 hours a week on Vikings cheerleader activities.  She said the reason she gets up so early on game days is to make sure she has enough time to get her hair and makeup ready.  Practicing formations on the field has to be done early before the players get on the field for their warm-up activities.

"After a game, we sell cheerleader calendars for about an hour at Erik the Red (restaurant near stadium), which was formerly Hubert's," Jessica said.  "After that, I head home.  No use sitting in traffic; we may as well do something useful.  It's a lot of fun."

She likes to record the game and then watch it when she gets home.  She likes to hear what the announcers said, and she likes to see if any of the cheerleaders got on TV.  Her husband, Jon, watches with her.  She said Jon came to many of the games last year.  This year, she has been trying to get each of her relatives to at least one game.  Jon went to the first game this year against the Packers, and he plans to be at the game against the Cowboys this Thursday, Dec. 1.

 

Danced throughout high school

Jessica met Jon in college, and he now works for a Fortune 500 company.  Their wedding was in 2010.  (He requested that we not include last name and his company's name in this story.)

Jessica said her family moved to Buffalo from Maple Grove when she was in the fifth grade.  Her dad, Scott, is a retired sheriff's deputy, and her mom, Jan, is a retired Wellness on Wheels Van staff member.

While in high school, Jessica was heavily involved with dance.  She drove down to Summit Dance Shoppe in Plymouth every day.

"I loved dancing in competitions.  I liked being pushed to be my best, and competing with the best," she said, adding that she has good friends from her years at the dance studio in Plymouth.

At the University of Minnesota, she studied at the College of Design and was proud to graduate in three years.  She studied retail merchandising at the Carlson School of Business, and she eventually earned a job as manager of Club Monaco, a high-end apparel retailer at the Mall of America.

 

Wanted to dance more

However, "an opportunity I could not pass up," led her back to dance.  A lady she knew was opening a dance studio in Eagan, and Jessica was offered a position as artistic director.

She is now in her fourth year as artistic director and lead teacher.  She also does office work and gets to pick costumes for shows, which gives her a chance to "use my creative juices."

As for becoming a Vikings cheerleader, Jessica said she had wanted to dance more, and then in April 2013, she heard on the radio about an open call.  She decided to attend a tryout, and afterward, she was asked to enter the Vikings cheerleader training program for high potential candidates.  She was in the program two years, and she said during that time, she fell in love with the organization.

Tryouts take place every year, and in 2015, Jessica made the cut.

"Following a performance at the Mall of America, results were posted online, and then I got the call in the morning.  It was one of the best calls," Jessica said about learning she made the team.  "It almost felt unreal for three and a half months."

 

New stadium

Performing as a Vikings cheerleader finally felt real at the first game.  It was the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, and the cheerleaders performed there because the Vikings were named the home team.

"It was a cool trip.  We flew in a charter plane," Jessica recalled.

Throughout the 2015-16 season, the Vikings' home games were played outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium while the U.S. Bank Stadium was under construction.  Jessica's first game at TCF was a preseason contest, and she remembers, "It was fun dancing in the rain."

A Vikings fan since Randy Moss played for Minnesota, Jessica loves being a Vikings cheerleader, and she also loves the new stadium.

"I like looking up at all those seats full of fans, and I like the new "Skol" chant," she said.  "The new stadium has more levels, and the levels are more steep.  The seats are more up than out."

She also likes the new fire-breathing dragon.  The heat from the flames can be felt across the whole stadium.

At U.S. Bank Stadium, the cheerleaders are now closer to the fans, and now and then some fun verbal exchanges take place.

 

Dancers and ambassadors

The cheerleader squad includes 28 dancers and 14 members whose job is to serve as ambassadors in the stands.  The ambassadors visit the fans and sell calendars.  Proceeds go to the Vikings Children's Fund, which supports children's cancer research.

The arrangement with 28 dancers and 14 ambassadors is new this year.  Last year, there were 35 dancers.  A different set of dancers visited the fans in the stands for one quarter.

This year, the dancers stay on the field, with seven in each corner.

There is a rule that the cheerleaders and players cannot meet, and their paths rarely cross anyway, Jessica said.  Exceptions occur when cheerleaders and players make public appearances.  For example, Jessica met Marcus Sherels at a breast cancer awareness luncheon in Edina.  She appeared with former Vikings kicker Blair Walsh during a Play 60 event at Parkside Elementary School in Buffalo last September.

 

'Too much fun'

Jessica said her experiences as a Vikings cheerleader have been "too much fun," and she plans to try out again for next year.

"Everyone has to try out each year.  No one's place on the team is safe," she explained.

Despite living in St. Paul now, Jessica said she has been able to stay in touch with close friends from Buffalo.  Many of them now live in the Twin Cities, she mentioned.

She has fond memories from her years in Buffalo, such as summer days when she and other girls were "beach bums" at Lake Pulaski's Griffing Park.  They floated on the water together.  They enjoyed doing that at Beebe Lake, as well, Jessica said.

She probably does not enjoy getting up at 3 a.m. on game days, but, judging from her comments about the overall Vikings cheerleader experience, she is having a great time.

From the Skol chant to meeting fans at Erik the Red, and then watching a recording of the game at home with her husband, game days are "too much fun."

Besides that, she gets to dance.  She loves dancing.


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