It may only be March, but the up-close-and-personal atmosphere of the sixth annual Packers Fan Fest – held Friday and Saturday at Lambeau Field – has Green Bay fans of all ages and from all locations excited and ready to get the upcoming season underway.
Just ask Wayne Spletter, a 66-year-old from Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., who attended his third-ever Packers Fan Fest on Saturday.
"It's a great way to get everyone excited for the season," Spletter said. "I told my wife the other day that I love summer, but I wish it was already over so Packers season would start again. I think the atmosphere of coming to Lambeau for an event like this is so great – there's so much passion for this team here."
Spletter, along with more than 2,200 other Green Bay fans, was able to interact with several players and coaches, past and present, as well as many other members of the Packers family. Fans had the opportunity to collect autographs, listen to live presentations by coaches and staff members, tour the Packers' locker room and even walk through the tunnel onto Lambeau Field.
Saturday's speakers included General Manager Ted Thompson, who discussed the basics of scouting in the NFL, Defensive Coordinator Dom Capers, who talked about the 3-4 defense and Offensive Coordinator Joe Philbin, who discussed the essentials of an NFL offense. Each presentation was broadcast throughout the entire building, so fans were able to tune in partaking in other Fan Fest activities.
"The presentations were great," said Elizabeth Schroeder of Wilmington, Ill., who watched Thompson's scouting talk while standing in line for autographs. "Fan Fest is set up very well and very well organized –it's not like any other place I've been."
In addition to hearing Thompson's presentation, Schroeder also enjoyed listening to former Packers defensive lineman Sean Jones talk about the Super Bowl years, as well as hearing former wide receiver Carroll Dale reminisce about the Vince Lombardi era.
Another loyal Packers fan, Trent Hanson of Minneapolis, Minn., has been to Fan Fest all six years, and has no plans of stopping in the future. Like many Fan Fest attendees, one of Hanson's favorite aspects of the event is the ability to meet and interact with the players.
"I bleed green and gold," Hanson said. "So it's exciting to get to see all of the Packers up close. I'm a collector of autographs and like to display them in my house. You also get to meet a lot of fans from different areas and talk football and get excited about the season."
Perhaps those who get the most enjoyment out of Fan Fest are the kids. Youngsters were able to participate in the first-ever Kids Camp, where they went through a series of football drills under the direction of current and former Packers players. There was also a designated Kids Zone, where children under the age of 14 had the opportunity to meet players and get autographs.
Randy Fry of Reedsburg, Wis., made his second consecutive trip to Fan Fest with his three boys – ages 11, 10 and eight.
"Just to interact with the players, I think that's cool for the kids to be able to do that," Fry said. "It's the Packers. It's Lambeau Field. It's a tradition that I want to make into something special for my kids."
Matthew Hazaert of Greenleaf, Wis., and his son Mayson both said they also enjoyed what Fan Fest had to offer to the younger crowd.
"It's amazing because you're in this one building with all the best football players in the league and you can get autographs," Mayson Hazaert said. "Every Packer fan should go."
His father agreed.
"The players have all been very nice," Matthew Hazaert said. "They take their time to talk to the kids, shake their hands, take pictures with them and get to know them a little bit. Kids who come here definitely won't go away disappointed."