10th Annual Packers Tailgate Tour shoves off

Posted by Aaron Popkey on April 14, 2015 – 10:21 am

tailgate-tour-300The 10th Annual Packers Tailgate Tour is underway. On the bus this year are Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy, current players Andrew Quarless, Micah Hyde and Casey Hayward, and Packers alumni Gilbert Brown, Antonio Freeman and Bill Schroeder, in addition to legends alumni Dave Robinson and Jerry Kramer.

Photo gallery: Packers set off on 2015 Tailgate Tour

More than $1.6 million has been raised over the previous nine years of the tour with funds this year being raised for nonprofits at tailgate parties in Menomonie, (April 14), Prairie du Chien (April 15), Baraboo (April 16), Elkhorn (April 17) and Sheboygan (April 18).

“I’m looking forward to being back on the tour,” said Gilbert Brown, who is enjoying his second tour. “I always enjoy seeing the fans…and eating the meals.”

Posted in Tailgate Tour

Packers Tailgate Tour wraps up with return to Lambeau

Posted by Aaron Popkey on April 19, 2014 – 9:29 pm


After nearly 1,000 miles and stops in 19 cities, the ninth annual Packers Tailgate Tour officially concluded as the motor coach pulled into Lambeau Field.

Thousands of fans enjoyed the opportunity to see their Packers players in a different light, such as sharing a smile and enjoying a laugh, an experience entirely different from watching them on the field, doing battle on gameday.

In the process, approximately $275,000 was raised for charity, bringing the nine-year total to nearly $1.4 million.

After a stop for dinner at Bubba’s BBQ in Shawano, Wis., the ride back to Lambeau Field was generally uneventful, with (thankfully) no more singing renditions of a parodied Gilligan’s Island theme: “A five-day tour, a five-day tour.”

The members had a chance to reflect on the experience.

Mark Murphy: “It was my seventh one, and each one is a little different. This was our fourth year with the mix of current players and alumni and I thought it was probably the best. The group got along well, and the interaction as week went on, you could see it build. They had more in common than they thought they did.

“I enjoyed the surprise stops at the schools, and the bus ride from Escanaba to Ironwood was like a sleigh ride. I’ll remember that.”

Lynn Dickey: “The fans, they’re the best. One of the highlights for me, though, was meeting the younger guys. Spending time with James and Paul was great, too. We see each other from time to time, but to spend five days together…that was a highlight.”

Paul Coffman: “It was bigger and better than thought it would be. Town to town, the turnout and enthusiasm of the fans was great. I always knew it was great; it went to a new level on this trip. The memories they have of our games in the 80s is incredible.

“The veterans hospital really stuck out for me. Those men have laid down life for county, so we could enjoy our freedoms. It was an honor to interact with them and bring little joy to their lives

“It was fun to reminisce with Lynn and James about our fun times, and share the stories with the current players. There’s a common bond with football and the Packers’ fraternity. It was great to interact with these guys.”

James Lofton: “It’s hard to believe the fan base is so rabid, but you look at what the team has been able to do the last 15 seasons, the success has been great for the fans. Hearing their stories from our time and seeing the photos they had was special.

“With Paul and Lynn, it was like a 25th high school reunion, hanging on bus, the corny jokes, retelling stories, talking about guys we played with, coaches we had. It was priceless.”

Jarrett Bush: “It was a great time, a great experience. It was nice to be able to show our appreciation to the state’s fans. They’re second-to-none. Sharing words of wisdom to the high school and younger students was fun, too.

“The visit with the residents at Benjamin’s House was great. We heard their stories, and it really puts in your head that we’re very fortunately to play football and be in a position to help people in that situation. It almost feels like a calling, to give back to those in need.”

Brad Jones: “I wanted to hit Wisconsin’s different parts. Hearing the fans’ real emotions about football, how it affects their lives, how much they care about football. Their support means much more to me now, I appreciate even more what it means to them.

“I liked the Hunger Games approach about our ability to do the tour. It was fun to joke that it was our survival.”

Mason Crosby: “I enjoyed the school visits, giving the students something to hold onto for this year and the future. Hope to say something that hits home and builds on what they hear from their teachers

“It was great to take care of the fans that take care of us and see their faces light up.”

2014 Tailgate Tour: Instant Replay

Posted in Packers.com Blog, Tailgate Tour

Packers receive rousing welcome in Merrill

Posted by Aaron Popkey on April 19, 2014 – 5:08 pm

140419-merrill-party-300The Tailgate Tour’s final tailgate party took place Saturday afternoon at the MARC Ice Center in Merrill, with the Wisconsin RIverbend Trail receiving its benefit. A community resource, the 2.5-mile long trail will continue to be developed along the Wisconsin River by the River District Development Foundation.

More than 900 fans in attendance cheered their heroes as they took stage, and also got a kick when a local resident and Packers alumnus, Mike Hunt, was introduced and embraced his former teammates on the platform. Hunt, a linebacker, played in 22 games from 1978-80.

“It was good to see Mike. I haven’t seen him in a few years,” said Paul Coffman.

During questions, an inquiring fan wanted to know what opponents the alumni least liked to face. Paul Coffman first focused on the opponent he liked to face: Tampa Bay…in December…in Tampa.

“We’d go down there for the week and practice before the game,” he recalled. “That was nice, getting out of the cold Green Bay weather.”

As for the least-liked opponent players: “I really didn’t like facing Wilbur Marshall and Lawrence Taylor,” he said. “Lawrence would talk all game long to try and get into your head, saying bad things about your mother, your sister, your girlfriend.”

When discussing the challenges of playing in foul weather, James Lofton said he preferred snow vs. rain, especially a hard rain, but also lamented the improved equipment today’s players have in their arsenals.

“I didn’t have these miracle gloves that today’s players can use,” Lofton said, drawing a collective laugh from the crowd.

After signing autographs, the players posed for a few more pictures and then made their way to the motor coach to begin the final stretch of the journey back to Lambeau Field.


Posted in Packers.com Blog, Tailgate Tour

Packers and the Easter Bunny

Posted by Aaron Popkey on April 19, 2014 – 2:01 pm

140419-easter-bunny-300Upon arriving in Merrill, Wis., the Tailgate Tour members made a surprise stop at Lion Park to participate in an Easter egg hunt. The surprised families enjoyed meeting the players as they passed out flowers to the mothers and grandmothers and candy to the children.

Players also posed for pictures and signed autographs.

“Thanks for the memories, James,” said one fan. “How fast is your ‘40’ time now?”

“Not as fast as it used to be,” Lofton said with a smile, as he got down in a football stance as if he were to take off on a sprint.


Posted in Packers.com Blog, Tailgate Tour

Tailgate Tour starts day 4

Posted by Aaron Popkey on April 19, 2014 – 10:04 am

After a night in Chippewa Falls, the motor coach is on its way east this morning and the group is preparing for the final day of the Tailgate Tour which will culminate with a party in Merrill, Wis., to benefit the River Bend Trail.

For breakfast, Jarrett Bush enjoyed another meal of oatmeal.

“It’s the breakfast of champions,” he said. “Lots of fiber, not too heavy. When you’re training it’s a great thing to have in the morning.”

Posted in Packers.com Blog, Tailgate Tour

Packers, fans support Benjamin’s House

Posted by Aaron Popkey on April 18, 2014 – 8:57 pm

140418-rice-lake-party-300An electric atmosphere existed at the Barron County Fairgrounds – dubbed Lambeau Field Northwest – as a marching band and more than 1,000 fans welcomed the Packers Tailgate Tour to the party.

The evening’s event benefitted Benjamin’s House Emergency Shelter Inc., an organization whose purpose is to work together as a nonprofit agency with community organizations and individuals to provide housing opportunities for the homeless population. Clients are assisted in resolving their homeless situations and the House represents a place of hope and new beginnings.

The party had a bit of a carnival feel as attendees had the opportunity to buy Packers-related crafts and play games, including a dunk tank with victims dressed as Bears and Vikings players.

During fan questions, Lynn Dickey was asked about how it felt to be the original No. 12. Dickey answered the question with his story about how he came to wear No. 12.

“When I first joined the Packers, I was given No. 10,” he began. “But after injuring my shoulder and then breaking my leg, I decided that No. 10 sucked. So I went to coach Zeke Bratkowski, who had worn No. 12, and asked if he’d be OK if I did. He said, ‘Go ahead.’ And that was when I changed.”

During a break in the autograph signing, James Lofton handed out cupcakes to fans who were standing in line.

“They had set those out for us, but we weren’t going to eat them all,” Lofton said. “There were a bunch of kids at the front of the line, so that worked out.”

Earlier in the afternoon, the members of the tour had the opportunity to tour Benjamin’s House and see firsthand what the shelter does for those it helps.

“It hit home for me. My brother was homeless,” Lofton said of the tour. “He had addiction problems and ended up being killed on the street. When people have nowhere to turn, to have something like Benjamin’s House is a fantastic resource. A lot end up there different ways, but to have a way out is important.”


Posted in Packers.com Blog, Tailgate Tour

Packers enjoy a slice of pie

Posted by Aaron Popkey on April 18, 2014 – 4:51 pm

140418-PIE-300The Tailgate Tour enjoyed some award-winning pie at the Norske Nook in Rice Lake, Wis., where the players had a hard time deciding which of the more than 40 pies they should order.

Brad Jones took the easy path and simply ordered two slices.

“Options,” Jones said when asked why. “I had orange creamsicle and lingonberry apple because they seemed good. They said it’s the best pie in the world and I couldn’t stand that my taste buds needed more.”

It was the second time a Tailgate Tour enjoyed the freshly made treats, as the 2008 trip also made a delicious stop.


Posted in Packers.com Blog, Tailgate Tour

Paging Dr. Crosby

Posted by Aaron Popkey on April 18, 2014 – 3:13 pm

140418-spooner-health-300No, he’s not a doctor, but he did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Mason Crosby and the other tour members paid a visit to patients at the hospital in Spooner, Wis.

The group posed for pictures, signed a few autographs and also visited with staff.

While in the physical therapy area, Paul Coffman made use of a therapy ball to work on his back.
“It’s been a long time on the bus,” he said. “This feels good.”

The motor coach continues toward Rice Lake.


Posted in Packers.com Blog, Tailgate Tour

A Packers playground in Hayward

Posted by Aaron Popkey on April 18, 2014 – 1:57 pm

140418-hayward-300While it’s not quite playground-building weather today with the snow cover, the Tailgate Tour members had swings on their minds as they stopped at Shue Pond Park in Hayward, Wis., to announce the donation of new playground equipment.

Hayward Mayor Bill Swintkowski was on hand to introduce the players and say thanks for the equipment, a much-needed addition to the park.

“I remember putting the current equipment in place about 25 years ago,” Swintkowski said. “It’s held up well and served its purpose, but now is a good time for some new equipment.”

The new playground, from Minnesota-Wisconsin Playground Equipment, will be installed this summer. The Packers have teamed up with the company on several other playground builds around Wisconsin.

After the announcement, the Tailgate Tour members enjoyed lunch at Angler’s Bar and Grill on Main Street in Hayward. Winter sports aficionados will know that street as the finishing line for the famous American Birkebeiner Nordic ski race.

“Looks like a challenging race,” Jarrett Bush said of the 50K event. “Maybe when I’m done with football I can learn the technique and give it a try.”

Posted in Packers.com Blog, Tailgate Tour

Packers play some Hokey Pokey

Posted by Aaron Popkey on April 18, 2014 – 11:46 am

140418-coffman-dance-300Day two of the Packers Tailgate Tour is underway and the group enjoyed its first stop, a surprise drop-in at the Golden Living Center in Superior.

The members of the tour participated in a morning exercise session with the seniors who live at the facility, including a game with a parachute. They also helped wish a resident a happy 105th birthday.

Paul Coffman then added another exercise routine with an impromptu rendition of the “Hokey Pokey,”

The group also had the pleasure of another visit with Alex Wizbicki, a Packers alumnus who lives at the facility. He was at Thursday night’s event at Superior High School. The 93-year-old former two-way back played in 11 games for the Packers in 1950 and made two interceptions.

“It’s unbelievable these guys stopped in today,” he remarked. “What a nice visit for everyone here.”

Wizbicki cherishes his experience with the Packers and continues to appreciate the unique story of the franchise’s success and popularity.

“I used to travel for business and the notoriety the Packers brought to Wisconsin was amazing,” he said. “The team has always represented Green Bay with class. I have great memories of my time with the team and the respect fans have for the players.”

The motor coach is headed south to Hayward.

Posted in Packers.com Blog, Tailgate Tour