Hardee's drive-thrus make us famous

·3 min read

Sep. 18—Last week's news about Mike Lindell, MyPillow CEO and ardent Donald Trump election results denier, was irresistible to the media and public.

Lindell was heading home to the Twin Cities from a hunting trip in Iowa when he stopped in at the Hardee's drive-thru on Highway 169 north in Mankato to grab a mushroom and swiss burger and a shake.

FBI agents, who had obviously been tracking Lindell's movements, used the opportunity to box in his vehicle with three cars and proceed to execute a federal search warrant on him. They wanted his phone as part of a federal investigation into a Colorado election official who Lindell had communicated with and who is facing charges of trying to subvert the 2020 election results.

Lindell, with a full measure of indignation, later recounted the FBI stop on his podcast. The idea of the warrant being served in a drive-thru in Mankato was of bigger interest than the case itself. The next day media across the country carried the news of the strange circumstances with the Mankato Hardee's prominently featured.

Late-night talk show hosts reveled in the story. "Welcome to Hardee's, you have the right to remain silent," Stephen Colbert joked, while Jimmy Fallon wished Lindell good luck. "I'm not sure you wanna go to prison known as the MyPillow guy."

Mankato gets in the national news once in a while. We had a truck carrying hogs overturn a few years ago, bringing an onslaught of ire from an animal rights group. We've been noted in various national publications for our strong economy. We were featured after a devastating flood and tornado. And every once in a while, we're mentioned in stories about sexually transmitted diseases for having a high chlamydia rate, thanks to a large population of young people.

But the Lindell stop particularly piqued the attention of people across the nation.

Weirdly, it's the second time a Hardee's drive-thru has put Mankato in the national spotlight. The other is from 1991 and involved a Vikings football player.

For more than 50 years, until 2017, Mankato State University was the host of the annual Vikings training camp, which in itself brought annual attention to the city and MSU, at least among NFL fans.

In the '90s, the players had a curfew — required to be in their rooms at the MSU Gage Towers by 11 p.m. The curfew was in place for years and enforced by Jerry Burns, the coach in 1991. Players running afoul of the rule paid a price — a $1,500 fine as well as being on the coach's bad list and subject to some abuse at the next day's practice.

After a long day of training camp, the Vikings players did what young, rich and famous guys would do in Mankato — hit some bars, maybe visit Mettler's for some striptease entertainment, and often end up back near campus at the Albatross bar before having to head back to their rooms.

One night in July 1991, just before 11 p.m., defensive tackle Keith Millard hurried his Corvette through the drive-thru of the Hardee's that was at University Square and proceeded to crash into a concrete planter, cracking the windshield, inflating the airbag and causing $7,500 damage to the car.

Millard proceeded to crawl out of his Vette and ran top-speed two blocks to get inside Gage dorm before the curfew.

Mankato police traced the car to Millard and went to the dormitory to interview him. Millard wasn't cited, with police saying it wasn't illegal to leave the scene of an accident if no one was injured.

The police report noted that "Millard did not have signs of intoxication," although many wondered how hard they were looking for signs. Millard had two DWIs the previous two years, one in Bloomington and one in Washington state.

Tim Krohn can be contacted at tkrohn@mankatofreepress.com or 507-720-1300.