8:43 p.m., May 11, 2011
The Packers Tailgate Tour experienced its first parade Wednesday night as the city of Ashland put on a welcome fit for a returning hometown hero.
Hundreds of city residents, decked out in their favorite Packers attire, lined the seven-block route from the county courthouse to the civic center and cheered the members of the tour as they walked behind a marching band. The festivities served as an appropriate start the evening’s tailgate party to benefit The BRICK Ministries (www.thebrickministries.com).
Ashland mayor Bill Whalen welcomed the group into the arena and presented them all with keys to the city.
“We’re so proud to welcome you to our city,” Whalen said. “Thank you for coming and for supporting our community.”
Mark Murphy introduced the members of the Tailgate Tour, thanked the fans for their support of the team and congratulated them for their effort to boost their own community through the event.
During the question-and-answer period, a fan asked about the new south end zone expansion at Lambeau Field.
“It’s going to be a great addition to our stadium,” Murphy said. “We’re going to add more seats for those on our waiting list and make Lambeau even more intimidating for our opponents.”
Another fan asked about the possibility of another stock offering. Murphy said it was a possibility that is being explored and pointed out that the team’s unique ownership structure gives it an advantage over other clubs in the sense that the connection with the fans and the community is much stronger.
“It is that setup that sets us apart from the other teams. It makes us special.”
From Desmond Bishop, the fans heard that his favorite sack was against Tom Brady, simply because of the competitor he is. His favorite interception came against then-Viking Brett Favre in Lambeau Field last season, a theft he returned for touchdown and the game’s decisive points.
“It’s going to be his last touchdown pass in Lambeau Field,” he said with a smile. The fans responded resoundingly to that comment.
Dancing with the Stars was on the mind of a fan who pointed out that Steelers receiver Hines Ward is on the show. She wondered which Packer would be the best candidate.
“Well, probably Aaron Rodgers,” said Matt Flynn. “He’d probably be our guy.”
“I’d vote for B.J. Raji,” offered Murphy. “He’s got some pretty good moves.”
Speaking of moves by a defensive lineman, the tour members again asked Gilbert Brown if he’d be willing to demonstrate his famous “Gravedigger” move.
“No!” was the emphatic response.
Brown, however, did continue to profess his dislike of the Vikings, adding to his purple comments with an enhanced disparagement.
“They look like 11 little Barnies out there,” he said.
After the Q-and-A, the fans received their coveted autographs, took pictures with the four Super Bowl trophies and perused the silent auction items.
More than 650 people turned out for the party, with all the tickets having been sold in five days, according to Linda Barnes, director of The BRICK Ministries. The group is a faith-based, non-profit organization with the mission to address hunger and suffering in the Ashland and Bayfield County communities.
Barnes said the event will be a tremendous help to their work which supports 700 families in the two counties.
“We have 1,700 people that we’re helping each month, which is significant amount of the 30,000 people in our area,” she said. “Not only will the money raised tonight be beneficial, but the food donations associated with the event, more than two tons, will go a long way, too.”
In addition to the immediate impact of the event, the Packers’ selection of The BRICK will help its ongoing efforts, giving it additional credibility as a non-profit and boosting its presence in the community.
“The Packers coming to Ashland is magic, and with our involvement, it makes the BRICK part of that magic,” she explained.
As the group headed back to the Hotel Chequamegon for the night, they reflected on the evening.
“That parade was awesome,” said Desmond Bishop. “I’ve never been part of something quite like that.”
“That was a first,” added Murphy. “A first for the Tailgate Tour.”
Another night on the shores of Lake Superior was in store for the tour.
“Gichigami,” stated Murphy, using the Ojibwe word for the lake, which means “big water.” Murphy reminded the group that Canadian musician Gordon Lightfoot used the word in his 1976 hit, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
Day Three beckoned.
Posted in Packers.com Blog, Tailgate Tour