Cornerback Kyle Ward signs the back of a young fan's shirt at Green Bay's Leicht Park
Exactly six months before Christmas, Green Bay children were given an early present on Wednesday.
For the sixth consecutive year, the city of Green Bay celebrated Kids' Day, a tradition that was started to show children how special they are to their families and to the community. The annual celebration, which Mayor Jim Schmitt implemented upon taking office in 2003, was in fact adopted from within Schmitt's own family.
"I was a father long before I was a mayor," Schmitt said. "I thought it would be right to set a special day aside, so we set June 25th as a day to honor the kids. When I was elected mayor, I said, 'We ought to do that as a city.' And we've done that.
"It's really grown to where we have over 7,000 kids participate. The Packers have stepped up in a big way. There's free tours at the Hall of Fame today and we've got 17 Packers here to celebrate with the kids. It's a very special day here in Green Bay."
Hundreds of children filled Green Bay's Leicht Park for lunch with the mayor, arts & crafts, huge inflatable games, and to get autographs and pictures taken with Packers players. The Packers have been involved in the event since its inception. The all-rookie group of 17 that interacted with kids at the park included quarterback Matt Flynn and wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Brett Swain.
For Nelson, Kids' Day is a good opportunity to give back to the community that he plans to be a part of for a long time.
"I think it's fun for them to see us come out without our gear on and to be able to interact with us more than they usually would," Nelson said. "This looks like fun. It's a great thing that the city is doing and obviously the kids are enjoying it. There are a lot of people here and lots of things for them to do. It's a whole-day activity. It's great to see."
Local businesses also lent a hand to Kids' Day, offering free access to movies, music, rides at Bay Beach Amusement Park, bowling, and the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.