By Jessica Bedore, packers.com
For some Packers fans, simply cheering for the Green and Gold on gameday isn't enough. A growing number of fans are pursuing a closer relationship with the team they love. While these fans dress in Packers colors, have likely been to Lambeau field and can answer any statistical question you throw at them, they're slightly different than your average fan. They're diehard Packers fans and they have one of the strongest connections to the team as members of the Packers Partners Club of Champions.
The Packers Partners Club of Champions is the official fan club of the Green Bay Packers, and it offers fans a truly one-of-a-kind fan club experience that includes Packers preseason ticket offerings, the annual fan club reception, official Packers publications and chances to win Packers autographed items.
The fan club hosted its annual reception on Friday, July 27, 2012, in the Lambeau Field Atrium. Doors opened at 4 p.m., when the banquet area quickly filled with more than 1,000 Packers Partners club members and guests. The night began with a buffet of traditional tailgate fare, a stadium viewing and a legendary member meet-and-greet with Packers alumnus Mark Chmura. At 5 p.m., the program began with an introduction from Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy and a Q&A with players Mason Crosby, Jordy Nelson, Josh Sitton, Tori Gurley and Mark Chmura, which was facilitated by Lambeau Field PA announcer Bill Jartz.
For many, attending the annual reception is a tradition celebrated with family and friends who are also members of the club.
Richard Strauss and his wife, Lois, of Hortonville, Wis., have been members of the fan club since it was created. They've never missed attending a banquet.
"We don't miss a chance to stop in here," Strauss said. "We love to eat at Curly's Pub or just come in and browse around. We were here for the shareholders meeting as well and anytime we get a chance to visit Lambeau we don't pass it up."
While not all members have been there since the beginning, even newer members find their experiences to be just as rewarding. Barry Schoenback of Portage, Wis., attended the reception with his family this year.
"I've been a member for five years and we've been coming to the reception every year," Schoenback said. "The reception has to be the best part of the membership. I love getting the magazines and newsletters and everything else, but this is a lot of fun to come to."
Regardless of age, gender or time as a member, these fans share a deep sense of devotion to their home team. They may disagree on their favorite player, but it was clear that there was only one place to be during football season.
"It's just really good to be in this part of Wisconsin and enjoying the Packers," Strauss said. "It's a lot more fun when they win so let's hope for that this year. I was a fan in the years that they weren't winning back in the '50's. It was tough back then, but we are making such a comeback. It's really been fun to watch."
The program concluded with a raffle drawing for more than 30 autographed Packers items. Ten lucky fans also got to have their picture taken with the players.
There are two membership levels for the Packers Partners Club of Champions: the "Champion level", which is $50 per year and the "Legend level", which is $100 per year. All Packers Partners Club members receive 15 percent off merchandise in the Packers Pro Shop, an invitation to the annual reception, Packers official publications, and ticket presales for Lambeau Field events and games, among other benefits.
For more information or to join the Packers Partners Club of Champions, cick here.
For a photo gallery from the annual reception, click here.