09 December 2008

Drunk in Green Bay, WI

For the sports fan, no party is huge as an NFL tailgate and no city knows this better than Green Bay, Wisconsin. Home of the 12 time World Champion Green Bay Packers, this city has seen some of the biggest parties and best football in the NFL. Having made the pilgrimmage to this hallowed ground on four occasions, I can testify to the hospitality and party atmosphere this city provides to fans of all NFL franchises. It is definately something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime.

Lambeau Field (aka The Frozen Tundra) has been home to the Green Bay Packers since it opened its doors in 1957, and is named after Packers founder Earl 'Curly' Lambeau. After undergoing various upgrades in 2003, the stadium emerged as the crown jewel of the NFL and the premier focal point of the Green Bay community. Lambeau Field is also the location of the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame and is home to the Packer's three Lombardi Trophies (Superbowls I, II, and XXXI). Due to the overwhelming popularity of this franchise, Lambeau Field is sold-out on a season ticket basis for the next 35 years. Fortunately, there are plenty of avenues available to obtain tickets to a game. The most simple option is to buy a package from Packer Fan Tours which includes 2 nights hotel stay and an end zone ticket to the game. In my experience however, ordering a mid-field ticket from an online broker such as eventusa.com and personally booking a hotel room can end up costing little more than a package deal. Keep in mind that once the NFL schedule is announced, hotels for game weekends dry up FAST. If you want to do all the leg work yourself, don't leave it to the last minute.

Green Bay, Wisconsin is approximately 12 hours drive from Toronto, Ontario. The route we take bypasses lovely Detroit, MI but goes through other tourist meccas such as Flint, MI and Gary, IN until you end up in Chicago, IL (tip: make time to stop for Chicago deep-dish pizza - there is no substitute!). From Chicago, continue north past Milwaukee, WI until finally arriving in Green Bay. The city of Green Bay has a poplation of approximately 103,000 and I was never in any part of the city I did not feel safe. The people there are extremely friendly, accomadating and genuinely want to you to return. This may have something to do with the fact that Wisconsin is known only for four things: beer, cheese, cannibals and the Green Bay Packers.

Once arriving in Green Bay, you will probably want to hit the bars. No matter where you are staying, a bar is never very far away. However, it is a good idea to keep in mind that the party starts early on Game Day. The tailgate officially starts three hours before kickoff, which on a Sunday is generally at noon. This means you want to be in the stadium district and lined up for the tailgate by 8:45. One of the best tailgate parties I have personally attended is the one held in the parking lot of Brett Favre's Steakhouse. The steakhouse tailgate is a stone's throw from Lambeau Field and costs $25 to enter. The fee includes unlimited draught beer, mixed drinks, hamburgers, brats, jambalaya (the Favre family's own recipe), salads and cookies. As you can see from the picture, draught beer and mixed drinks are lined up on tables and you can guzzle all you want. Additionally, it should be worth mentioning that the city of Green Bay suspends all liquor-related bylaws on Game Day. In other words, no one cares if you grab a couple cups of draught for the walk over to the stadium. The party is hosted by a local DJ who plays a mix of parodies that generally poke fun at the division rivals and the visiting team. The party is always a great time and the food is excellent.

Another aspect of the live NFL experience is the crazy outfits people wear to the games. Cheeseheads, jerseys and beads are the norm, with some people going over the top (like Super Ram above). Whether fuelled by alchol or simply a love of the game, people wear some of the craziest costumes I have ever seen. This just adds to the relaxed carnival atmosphere and overall great time one has at the game. Unlike some NFL towns, Green Bay is reknown for treating fans of both the Packers and the visiting team equally, and any ribbing that goes on is always good-natured.

Shortly before kickoff, grab a cup of draught and make the short walk over to Lambeau. There are always people selling souveniers, beads, cheeseheads and other team-related merchandise along the way. As you near the stadium, you'll find the parking lot of Lambeau Field is the scene of an even bigger tailgate party, with some people without tickets bringing generators and televisions along with their coolers and barbeques so they can watch the game at the stadium! The smell of barbequed meat hangs in the air and everywhere people are drinking and tossing footballs around. Once inside the stadium, the party continues full-speed. While security is a little stricter in the stadium to ensure everyone's enjoyment of the game, Lambeau Field does not rape you sans lube when it comes to beer prices. Additionally, they are one of the only teams in the league that serve beer up until the end of the third quarter. Live football is something an anomoly as well in that a three-hour game only seems to be an hour at the stadium. No matter where you sit in Lambeau Field, you always have an excellent view of the field. It truly is one of the greatest football stadiums on the planet.


Plaidstallions said...

Seeing Sue in that cheesehead makes me wonder if you're not a bad influence on every person you know. You seem to have an eery ability to corrupt people,

John III said...

No kidding! It's Dallas Cowboys all the way! But seriously, even though I can't stand the team, I wold love to check out that tailgating. Especially at the steakhouse. $25 for all of that? SIGN ME UP!!