After nearly a month of inactivity on Lambeau Field, the Green Bay Packers returned home to host the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, Dec. 5.
And once again, Sunday's event had a lot more in store for fans than just the all-important game.
Before the Packers and tailgaters had even pulled into the Lambeau Field parking lot, 34 young competitors were already taking the field in the Don Hutson Center for the annual NFL Punt, Pass and Kick team championship competition.
Seventeen boys and 17 girls, ages 8 to 15 advanced to Sunday's competition through local, regional and sectional competitions across Wisconsin. Following their 8 a.m. competition, all 34 participants made their way to Lambeau Field to display their passing talents on the field as part of the pregame festivities, with the competition winners introduced as well.
The following participants finished in first-place and moved closer to the national contest to be held at a to-be-determined NFL playoff game: (6 and 7 year olds) Julia Neuberger, Lake Mills; Joshua Bauer, Omro; (8 and 9 year olds) Kennedy Peters, Seymour; Jaden Raymer, Sparta; (10 and 11 year olds) Devon Boll, New Glarus; Maleak Muhammad, Sheboygan (12 and 13 year olds) Chloe Wanick, Cameron; Blake Marquardt, Oshkosh; (14 and 15 year olds) Rebecca Simpson, Black Creek; Dominic Berlin, Eau Claire.
Seymour resident and first-place winner for the 8 to 9 year-old age group, Kennedy Peters, took pride it making it this far and knows this is something she will never forget.
Equally appreciative was her father, Kelly Peters. "Today was absolutely amazing," Peters said. Not only did the kids have a great time, but for the Packers' organization to allow family members in the Don Hutson Center to watch the kids was really special. We truly are grateful for the Packers giving the kids this opportunity.
In recognition of NFL PLAY 60, 15 students from Marshall, Parkview, Huntley, and Grantosa Middle School also took the field prior to Sunday's contest. Wearing special PLAY 60 jerseys, the students were selected for winning the PLAY 60 Challenge last March and demonstrating the importance of good health and being active.
Two participants, Zac Hinz and Nick Knaub waited anxiously to take the field prior to kickoff and were in awe as they walked down the Packers tunnel and onto the field.
"This is so cool," Knaub said to his friend before heading to the field. This is my first Packers game and I've seen more than my dad has even seen."
While the Packers are well into the season, Sunday's showdown kicked off the first true winter-weather game.
With the Festival of Lights tree standing tall on Harlan Plaza and the crisp winter air taking over Green Bay, it was clear the holiday season had arrived at Lambeau. It was only fitting for the Packers to hold their annual 'Toys for Tots' campaign prior to the game.
Members of the U.S. Marine Corps and the Salvation Army were present at each of the stadium's entrances to help collect unwrapped toys from fans in attendance.
By the end of the game, 'Toys for Tots' collected 1,300 toys and $4,565.00 in donations which will be distributed to children in need throughout the Green Bay area this holiday season.
Highlighting Sunday's contest was the debut of the historic third jersey, representing the 1929 uniform worn by the franchise's first NFL championship team. It was the first time since 2003 that the Packers have worn a third jersey, the seventh time in franchise history, and only the second time ever on their home turf.
The uniform was well-received, as many fans have already been seen wearing the third jersey. Even Coach Mike McCarthy expressed his liking toward the third jersey.
"I thought it was awesome," McCarthy said. "Sometimes when you look on the TV, and you see some of the other teams, you go whoa, but I really liked the way our guys looked in the uniform. It was a tribute to the 1929 championship team, which anytime you have an opportunity to say thank you to the tradition and the history of the Green Bay Packers, you have to do so because it's an honor to work here. And I know everybody feels that way that is employed here. It was great for our football team. They enjoyed it, liked the look and I think our fans enjoyed it as well."
During the halftime break, members of Marty's Goldenaires Senior Drum Corps took the field to share their uplifting musical talents with the crowd. The traveling group from Bessemer, Mich., was thrilled to be chosen as the halftime performance and couldn't hold back their excitement following the performance.
"Everybody did a great job and was really pumped up to be here today," Corps Commander Tim Lynott said.
"We began practicing about five weeks ago for this event and it's a good thing because once we got out on the field, your brain kind of turned off for a minute because we couldn't believe we were here. Once we stepped out on the field, it was just amazing.
"We had to take a few precautions to perform in the cold. Some of us tied hot-hands to our gloves, and horns, doubled up on our gloves, and pants.
"I personally have been a Packers fan since I was a young kid, so to do this, here, is just awesome. We really would like to thank the Packers organization for giving us this opportunity."