It is all about the Green Bay Packer Game Trip Experience, in particular, the joys of attending a home game. As we await next week’s opening of the 2021 season with training camp, I would like to describe my building excitement of what takes place here for those unable to witness what happens in late summer and the fall each season in the City of Green Bay.
Green Bay Packer fans can be found everywhere worldwide. In addition, Packer bars dedicated to supporting the team are in every major American city. This writing is more for them than locals. Perhaps they can get a glimpse of what this experience is like through my eyes.
Summers in Northeast Wisconsin
Training camp offers the ability to preview the upcoming team strengths by attending public practices in a very close-up and personal setting. Interaction with the players themselves is pretty easy to do. However, the people are some of the most significant aspects of these visits.
From Packer staff to other fans attending, it is always pure joy to share such a fun experience with some of the friendliest, like-minded people I have ever encountered year after year. And there is no place on earth more beautiful than the Bay Area in the summertime.
No Vacancy Gameday Weekends
It all begins with the NFL announcement of the new season schedule. According to the Greater Green Bay Convention & Visitors Bureau, there are 4,653 hotel rooms available.
And it is nearly impossible to book any of them for Packer game weekends. Years ago, the hotel industry in Green Bay adopted a city-wide policy of a two-night minimum stay to reserve a room.
As a result, die-hard fans always seem to book every room before the NFL announcement of the schedule. Once the football schedule is known, the fans then cancel the weekends that have no games. So if you are planning a trip, my advice is to book your room early.
Occasionally I would get lucky and find a room in Green Bay, but for at least the past ten years, I had been reduced to staying in Appleton some 26 miles away.
Just one more reason for me to move to Green Bay. Now I live 4 minutes away from Lambeau year-round.
Come Early, Park the Car, Party
Tailgating is a long-standing tradition in Wisconsin, where sports fans will create a bit of a party out of the trunk or “tailgate” of their vehicle in the parking lot of any event. (Tailgaiting is the art of coming to the event very early, setting up grills, food tables, coolers filled with adult beverages, and celebrating before and after the actual game). It has indeed achieved the level of a creative art form.
In the Lambeau Field Parking Lot, you will find plenty of tailgating activity on gamedays. Smoke from the bratwurst cooking is everywhere, and it is unbelievably fun to walk the lot to see all the different extremes in how fans will “up-their-game” to enjoy this tradition.
The Packer organization has not ignored this fan-favorite activity either. In the past few years, they have built and perfected the Johnsonville Tailgate Village.
A massive structure in the Lambeau lot, the Tailgate Village features plenty of adult beverage and food options along with a live band playing on game days. It makes it easy to leave the grill at home.
But the fun extends far beyond the Lambeau parking lot. Neighborhood homes surround Lambeau Field, and another tradition is the residents who charge a fee to let you park on their lawns. This is a lucrative cottage industry for these homeowners. They often reflect such income as part of the asking price when selling their homes.
I always prefer to park on someone’s lawn. We have done the whole tailgate thing parking there, and I find it incredible the degree of hospitality you receive for the $20 you pay to park.
Not only are the homeowners interesting to talk to, on more than a few occasions, they have also opened their homes to us to use their bathrooms. It is almost mind-boggling to grasp such a level of friendliness.
Tailgates begin with an ice chest filled with cold beer, some sodas for the driver or kids, at times, some wine or something shot worthy. It is not uncommon to find a complete Bloody Mary bar set up, all intended to help Packer-Backers get their game faces on.
Tailgate food has traditional menu favorites, great bratwurst grilled and simmered in beer and onions, hot dogs or burgers, maybe some potato salad, chips, baked beans, and a variety of pickles and or condiments.
It can be that simple or get as elaborate as the tailgate chef wants to take it. You will find steaks and lobster on a grill somewhere if you look hard enough.
For me, I try to simplify things more these days. I opt for a fully disposable menu of cold sandwiches with maybe some chips. All items that, when game time arrives, make cleanup and disposal extra easy. One thing is for sure, the more extensive the tailgate menu, the more time and effort it all requires.
Time to play
I am a professional chef by trade, not a pro footballer. I may not have played in as many football games as Brett Favre, but I have played a lot of streetball in my time, and every good tailgate party will always include tossing the old pigskin around.
It is another reason I prefer to park on the lawns rather than in the Lambeau lot. The elements of the grass, mud, rain, piles of raked leaves, ice, and snow have all been a part of our impromptu, pre-Packer game pick-up contests.
And while my normally fleet-footed buddy Tony might have significantly better speed than I, his typical happy-hour conditioning has allowed me to stick him hard enough to cough up the rock on more than one occasion. Boys will be boys, and fun is the name of this game.
If tossing a football is not your bag, maybe a game of Bags is. Otherwise known as “Cornhole,” this is an everyday tailgate activity where two identical wooden platforms with a hole in each are placed a distance apart (often, the playing length is determined by space available).
The sandbags are tossed in an attempt to get more of your bags in the hole than your opponents. You can easily participate in a game while eating and drinking, making it the perfect activity for tailgating.
Get your Gear On
Another fun element of attending games with 70,000 of your closest friends is your gameday attire.
A most impressive sight for my eyes is the vision of coming into the bowl and the visual of a sell-out Lambeau Field crowd with the vast sea of green and gold colors everywhere.
Game attire often depends on the desired level of creativity. If you have been there, you most certainly have seen the guy wearing the Mitre headgear and Vestment adorned in Green and Gold, commonly referred to as St. Vince. His game attire is cleverly done, and he put some good thought into it.
As for myself, you may have seen me on occasion. Several years back, I got new eyeglasses. I was told numerous times they looked like ‘Vince Lombardi” eyewear. That was all it took for me.
I researched images of Vince, and before I knew it, I was buying a long camelhair coat like his, several Fedora-style hats he wore, the skinny ties, and even the 1960’s era turf shoes he wore on the field.
The real fun came when I first wore it to a game. People stopped me for pictures, wanting to shake my hand—tailgaters offering me free beer and brats in the parking lot. Yeah baby, this Vince thing is way fun!
Most however, opt for a favorite player jersey. I have plenty of those too. The great thing is you can never go wrong with any number you wear.
From Aaron Rodgers to Brett Favre to Bart Starr to Ray Nitschke, Reggie White, or even an old Ha Ha Clinton Dix number, showing your Packer pride can easily be accomplished with a simple jersey. Then, when it is cold, add Packer hats, gloves, scarves, sweaters, sweatshirts, or longjohns, and you are ready to go.
It is what 70,000 close family and friends do when they get together on Sunday. And It all is part of the Green Bay Packer Experience.
Thomas Doyle is a career professional chef, entrepreneur, restaurant consultant and writer for the food industry. A Green Bay resident, avid Green Bay Packer fan and lifelong season ticket holder, Doyle now can be found as a feature writer for Packerstalk.com.