Tradition is a word that has become synonymous with the Green Bay Packers and their fans. And in just one more example of how that plays out, the Packers continued a long-standing tradition with involvement in the community at the Green Bay Traffic Club's "Rookie Night 2010" Tuesday, Sept. 14, at the Lambeau Field Atrium.
Since 1933 the Green Bay Traffic Club, a not-for-profit club, has been providing professionals throughout Northeastern Wisconsin a networking environment that not only serves as a resource for persons seeking professional development, industry contacts and job opportunities, but moreover an environment simply to mingle and socialize.
More than 500 Packers fans and business professionals filled the dining tables in the Atrium to meet this year's rookie class, free agents and first year players. And with the rookies' head table elevated on a stage surrounded by an allegiance of die-hard fans, the rookies welcomed the attention.
Master of Ceremonies John Maino wasted no time getting the players to open up and let fans know just what these players had in store. By the end of the night, spectators learned everything from who had the best singing voice in the locker room, to who had been given what nickname from teammates, and even how accurately each rookie could throw a football to a fully seated dining table in the Atrium.
The Traffic Club's ongoing tradition to keep business professionals interacting and networking was not only another success, but also served as an opportunity for these professionals to demonstrate their fan commitment to the team they love.
For Eastern Illinois rookie tackle Chris Campbell, the unconditional support and tradition seen by his newest fans never ceases to amaze him.
"I came from Eastern Illinois, a smaller town where the fan-base isn't that big and there isn't a real big stadium," he said, "so to come here, it's like, 'wow, this is really what fan support is all about.' I have only been here now for five or six months and still, it's eye-opening every day.
"When I first got here, I kind of understood how committed this town was because I am from Chicago and have been to a couple of Bears games. But really, in comparison, Chicago fades. I mean up here fans are out there from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Every time we're coming out of the building, they are out there asking for autographs, for the game and things like that. They are just there, there in numbers and I would love to continue to be a part of this organization and this town. The love that you get when you are out and about is such a warm welcoming."
Campbell not only enjoyed the warm welcome from fans but also the camaraderie that continues to build among the team, which all spectators could clearly see at the event.
"Green Bay has a great organization as far as team-building, so being here at events like this, or even running around the locker room, everyone has fun," he said. "The veterans make fun of the rookies as much as any other team but they also show us just as much love as any other team. But tonight, we really had a lot of fun amongst each other and with the fans.
"It was especially fun when we got to the ball-throwing session. We all had a little bet among each other, no actual debt or monetary bets, but just seeing who could get the ball out there – on the money – and things like that. Different guys wanted to try to punt the ball, just to see how high it could go."
One fan who was lucky enough to head home with a rookie-signed football was 12-year old Ben Richards of Greenville, Wis. "I came out with my dad," Richards said. "I didn't end up catching the pass but I still had a lot of fun tonight."
Many of Tuesday's guests have become regular attendees to the Traffic Club's events, but of the many, most agree that Rookie Night is a favorite.
Suzanne Hietpas may have had an incomplete pass from a rookie, but she still walked away with the football in hand and another enjoyable time at Rookie Night.
"Tonight was a lot of fun," Hietpas said. "My husband is the CFO from Dedicated Systems, which is through the Traffic Club, so I came with him tonight. They come here every year, at least for the past four or five years now, but this is the first year I got a football."
Gene Loiselle of Kimberly, Wis., said that he came to Tuesday's event to entertain his customers of Warehouse Specialists.
"We had a lot of fun tonight," Loiselle said. "This is definitely one of the best events the Green Bay Traffic Club holds. Unfortunately, I did not catch a football; it was another counterpart at our table. I would have caught it though, they missed it."
Loiselle has been a regular attendee to the annual event and has been going since it was held at the Riverside Ballroom years ago.
"At the Riverside Ballroom, Packers players would end up throwing the ball up into the chandeliers, not on purpose of course, but as you saw tonight they are not all that accurate with their throws. There, they were not able to punt the ball like some of the players did here tonight. But overall, tonight was definitively a great time."
Green Bay Traffic Club treasurer Scott Selby was pleased to see yet another successful Rookie Night and looks forward to the ongoing tradition throughout the community that know all about the importance of tradition.
"We've been doing this for a long time now," Selby said. "Basically, this is a fun way to get our mission across. The club is centered for networking, community involvement, and giving back to the community through our scholarships and other fundraising events."
Not often do fans get a chance to see such a large number of Packers together at a community event. The Green Bay Traffic Club's commitment to the community, and with the Packers, is just one more demonstration of how tradition continues to grow for both the team and throughout Northeastern Wisconsin.