Fan Fest '06 Provided Enduring Memories


As the second annual Fan Fest wrapped up in the Lambeau Field Atrium on Sunday, the devoted Packers faithful left with indelible recollections.

"(It's) just a wonderful weekend," Executive Vice President and COO John Jones said. "We've had folks from so many different states that are visiting Green Bay."

Michelle Valdez, who sports a Packers "G" tattoo on her lower back, came all the way from Vero Beach, Fla. to attend all three days of Fan Fest. She accompanied her uncle and aunt from Peshtigo, Wis. On Friday Packers legend Jerry Kramer signed a picture from Super Bowl II, owned by Valdez's father. Unable to keep the autograph a surprise, she phoned her father shortly after Kramer signed it.

"I had to call him," Valdez said. "He cried almost. It sounded like he was tearing up."

The 2,982 fans who attended Sunday's events experienced a wide range of emotions as well. Fan Fest offered the unique opportunity for fans to stroll through and take pictures of the Packers' locker room, an off-limits area during Packers tours.

"We're walking where Brett Favre walks," exclaimed Sara Englebretson of Green Bay, Wis.

The ambience of the locker room, which includes several televisions and open oak-colored lockers, impressed the visitors. Jodi Minesal of Slinger, Wis. said her jaw dropped upon seeing the tidy, oval-shaped room.

"I am very surprised the locker room is this clean. I can't believe it. I mean my house is clean. I'm a woman, but this is clean," she said. "I'm shocked ... It's beautiful. Oh my gosh!"

The weekend's autograph sessions served as another highlight. Fans received a chance to have current and past Packers sign their prized possessions.

Jack Bowalisz of Two Rivers, Wis. brought two Packers helmets for members of the three Super Bowl-winning teams to sign. He celebrated his 45th birthday at Fan Fest on Sunday. His wife gave him tickets to Fan Fest as an early birthday gift a couple of weeks ago.

When Mike Waterland and his two sons saw former defensive tackle Gilbert "The Gravedigger" Brown was signing autographs, they rushed to a hardware store to buy a green and yellow shovel for him to sign. Die-hard Packers fans, they made the three-and-a-half hour journey from New Lenox, Ill. That area is considered Chicago Bears country, but the Waterlands hope to make those residents Packers fans.

"We've converted quite a people from down there," Waterland said. "We're always working on that."

In addition to collecting autographs, fans could buy Packers memorabilia, including pictures and wood carvings. All proceeds went toward the Packers Foundation.

Another popular booth allowed fans to don a headset and provide play-by-play of any of four memorable Packers contests and receive a CD of their broadcast. Scott Folger of West Allis, Wis. came to Fan Fest last year and announced cornerback Al Harris' game-winning touchdown from the 2004 wildcard playoff game.

This year Folger called wide receiver Antonio Freeman's miracle catch against the Minnesota Vikings. Even though he had school the next day, he stayed up to the wee hours of the night in 2000 to watch the original version of that overtime Monday night game.

"It was a great catch," Folger said. "I remember that catch like it was yesterday."

And like the many attendees of Fan Fest, he will have memories from this past weekend as well.

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