We're not that far out folks! Training camp is almost upon us. This means that it's time to plan out your trip to Green Bay if you want to see some of these camp battles in person. Now in case you missed the last post, it was some suggestions on how to convince your spouse to make the journey at all. This time we are going to focus on some of the sights of training camp and suggestions on what to do in Green Bay in the summer. I'll keep an eye on this thread and answer as many questions that come up, but just as last time, feel free to give advice cause one thing I have learned about APC is that there are lots of people with wisdom about how to approach this sort of trip.
If you have you choose between a training camp trip and a trip for a game day, my advice is go to training camp. Without a doubt, this event is probably the most fan friendly, and vacation friendly, time in the NFL year. This is especially the case for the Packer fan. You will have more opportunity to go on a stadium tour, see the Packer Hall of Fame, interact with the locals, and more importantly interact with the players, during training camp than any weekend of the regular season (or playoffs). The Packers were even aware of this and renovated the practice outdoor practice facility to make it more fan friendly and accessible not too long ago.
So here are a few things to keep in mind when planning your training camp vacation:
1. The Packer Shareholder Meeting. Chances are you know what this is and you have made up your mind if you are going or not. The date for this year's meeting is Tuesday, July 24th. Camp opens on Thursday, July 26th. With a bit of panning it shouldn't be too hard to hit both with a day between to see other Packer sites or taken in what Green Bay has to offer. If you don't know what this is, well the quickest way I can describe it is by saying it's a chance for you to see Mark Murphy in person talk about the business the team is going through, see Ted Thompson talk for a few minutes to you and say basically nothing about the team, and be around a group of true hardcore Packer fans. Pretty cool if you stop and think about it. I also think lunch is included but I'm not sure on that.
2. The Packer Hall of Fame. If you ever come to Green Bay to see anything Packers you have to take the time to visit the Packer Hall of Fame. It doesn't matter if you typically aren't into history. It doesn't matter if you haven't been a fan long. It doesn't matter if you haven't seen many of these eras. It will be worth your time...I promise. If you go you will get to see telegraphs to Lombardi (my personal favorite was the telegraph from Pete Rozzelle telling him who the refs were for the AFL-NFL Championship game, today we call it Super Bowl I), a jerseys from many Packer greats (including Don Huston), one of Bart Starr's Super Bowl rings, Vince Lombardi's office (and a chance to sit at his desk), and the four Lombardi trophies.
3. The Packer Fan Hall of Fame. It's in the Lambeau Field atrium and notes people who have done some crazy things to show how much they love the Packers.
4. The Bikes. This may be the best reason to go to training camp. Ray Nitschke Field (where the Packers practice) is located across the street from Lambeau Field (which houses most things Packers including the locker rooms). In order to get there the players have to cross the parking lot and then go another half block or so. A long time ago a bunch of the local kids starting showing up outside the locker room doors with their bikes, offering the players a ride. Slowly this became a tradition. It's sacred.
The best way I can explain it is by telling you a story that my father-in-law used to love to tell. I don't know if it's true, but even if it does capture the essence (and rules) of the Packer/biker relationship. During the Holmgren era the Packers picked up a veteran safety by the name of Eugene Robinson. The first day of training camp Robinson came out of the locker room and saw all these kids with their bikes asking if he wanted a ride. He didn't know what was going on and so he started to go past focused on the upcoming practice. Reggie White caught him and pulled him aside, telling him that he had to go back and choose a kid and take a bike. It was tradition. Robinson went back chose a bike and then rode as fast as he could down to the field for practice, the kid running behind him crying. White caught up with him again and told him to go back. That this was a chance to bond with the kid, have him carry your helmet and run along side. So Robinson went back and met up with the kid, and rode slow enough for the kid to run behind carrying his helmet. The next day Robinson went out and saw the kids again. He choose a kid, took the bike and started to peddle down with the kid confused and the kid from the previous day freaking out as well. Once again White caught up to Robinson and explained that once you choose a kid you stick with the kid for the rest of the summer. White again sent him back up to the locker room, told him to find his kid and stick with him. So Robinson did that and from that day on he understood a bit more of what it meant to be a Packer.
I've heard stories of Packers who stick with their kid for years. Of families who have had the Packer the kid would run beside over for dinner and exchange Christmas cards. It's a serious thing, and something many Packers value too. Heading up and making sure you see the beginning of practice is worth it just to see the guys riding bikes too small for them while a 10 or 12 year old runs behind is a sight to behold.
5. Other things to do in Green Bay:
Heritage Hill. I'm going to start with an odd one. Green Bay is home to a historical reenactment park featuring different time periods in local history. It goes as far back as the early French settlers and goes all the way up to feature a model Belgian farm. The park will also host more focus historical reenactment events such as Civil War reenactments and playing a 20's style baseball game. Not for everyone, but a good time if you are interested.
Bay Beach Amusement Park and Wildlife Sanctuary. Bay Beach is an amusement park with your standard fair rides. The prices are dirt cheap (generally around 50 cents a ride). They also have Elvis' favorite roller coaster the Zippin Pippin. The Wildlife Sanctuary is a nice little hide away for those that want to take in some scenery. It's also a great place for kids to run around and burn off energy....also a chance for them to feed the geese that stop there on their migration.
Beer and cheese curds. If there is one thing Wisconsin generally does right it's food. While there aren't too many five star restaurants (although if that's what you need the American in Kohler should suffice), you will find countless restuarnts that will give you fantastic food and service. If you want Packer themed hit Brett Favre's Steakhouse or Fuzzy's. A bit more local flavor would be Titletown Brewery or Krohl's. No matter what though you have to try the fresh cheese curds, you know they are good if they squeak when you eat them.
Golf. Green Bay has a surprising number of golf courses worth your time and easy on your wallet. Brown County Golf Course is a great little public course. Thornberry Creek is not too far from that and well worth your time. There is even a course on the campus of UWGB, Shorewood (my personal favorite).
Naturally this is just a sampling. There is still plenty more to see and do, but take the time to think about making your Packer Pilgrimage during the training camp time. There will be no other opportunity to hang around the team and the fans in the same way.