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Day 4: Houghton to Hodags

Posted Apr 8, 2017

Tailgate Tour moves back across border into Wisconsin

The Packers Tailgate Tour’s fourth day featured a journey south, back into Wisconsin, with three stops on its way to setting up the party in Rhinelander.

During the final stop of the tour in Houghton, players and alumni had another opportunity to spring a surprise visit on elderly fans at The Bluffs Assisted Living Facility. Those gathered enjoyed games and a question-and-answer session with the players, who shared their excitement for the upcoming season.

The players enjoyed the beautiful view of the Houghton-Hancock area from outside the facility, and then departed.

Upon crossing the border into Wisconsin, the team made a quick stop to take a fun picture in front of the “Welcome to Wisconsin” sign.

The tour will be down a player for the last couple days as Robert Ferguson returned to Houston Friday for the birth of his fifth child, as his wife went into early labor. His colleagues will anxiously be awaiting news. To help welcome the new child into the family, and give Robert a lasting memory of the tour, the fellas made a stop at an Eagle River gift shop to purchase some items for the baby.

Also in Eagle River, students at Northland Pines High School had a fun surprise waiting for them as the motor coach pulled up. Expecting an assembly to hear from a motivational speaker, the 420 students were instead motivated by the players to respect their fellow students and put a stop to bullying.

“The microphone setup was a little suspect,” observed Ryan Longwell. “It looked like we were a boy band up there.”

After a $2,000 Play 60 check presentation, the players took on the boys basketball team in a game of lightning. The players were impressed that Jake Ryan was the last Packers player in.

“I’m terrible at basketball,” said Ryan. “But, I made a game of it…even banked in a couple shots.”

Continuing the practice of visiting area businesses while on the road, the tour made a stop at Printpack upon arriving in Rhinelander. The company is an industry-leading packaging manufacturer, creating innovating packages for customers and consumers for food, drinks, and household supplies.

Company associates proudly gave the players a tour of the plant, which was recently constructed, replacing its older facility in downtown. The players were impressed with the cutting edge robotics on display and learned first-hand the importance of high-tech industry for the state of Wisconsin.

The staff also had the opportunity to pepper the players with some questions and Ahman Green, once again, was asked if he’s considering a comeback with the Packers in search of additional running backs.

Hodag hospitality was on fine display as the tour received a grand escort to the evening’s tailgate party, with players riding in a fire truck through downtown on the way to the high school. The escort stopped briefly for the group to take a picture in front of a Hodag, a mysterious woodland creature that makes its home in the Rhinelander area.

More than 600 people provided an electric welcome as the players entered the event to get the party started to benefit NATH – Northwoods Alliance for Temporary Housing. NATH and Frederick Place, a 16-bed emergency, temporary shelter, provide support for families, women and men who are experiencing homelessness.

While the financial boost and enhanced awareness were certainly positive outcomes from the party, Tammy Modic, the executive director of NATH, was equally, if not more, excited about the additional supporters the organization gained.

“Of the 120 volunteers here tonight, about 50 to 60 of them never volunteered before,” she explained. “They are the future of the organization.”

During the Q&A, it became very apparent the Packers’ depth at running back is a concern for fans in the northwoods as Green was again asked if he would consider coming out of retirement.

“I’m in good shape and all,” Green said with a laugh, “but you’ll have to talk to my wife about that.”

The tour’s final day is lined up for Saturday.

 
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