Starr Makes Surprise Visit To Fan Fest


It's not as though the dozens of current and former Green Bay Packers who came weren't enough, but there was one surprise visitor as the third annual Fan Fest kicked off on Friday night at the Lambeau Field Atrium.

Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr was an unannounced attendee, and the sellout gathering of 3,500 was clearly fired up about his presence. They gave him a standing ovation after being introduced during the kickoff event, and most of the 150 lucky recipients of the Starr autograph tickets that were randomly handed out lined up more than a half-hour early for the autograph session.

"This is the best thing that could have happened today," said Rob Adyniec of Waukesha, Wis., who along with his wife Kelly have been at all three Fan Fests and were the first in line to get Starr's autograph. "I'm very pleased. Now we're just waiting for the surprise of Brett Favre showing up."

While that wasn't likely to happen, the fans clearly hold both of the franchise's greatest quarterbacks in high esteem.

"He's a legend," said Kelly Adyniec, who was going to use Rob's ticket while her husband videotaped her getting the autograph on a Packers mini-helmet. "He's the Brett Favre of that era. It's exciting. I wasn't around back then, so it's like history getting to meet him."

Right behind the Adyniecs at the front of the line was someone who had seen Favre play. Cliff Caudle, 78, had driven 10 hours over the past two days from Albion, Mich., with his granddaughter to attend Fan Fest, and almost couldn't contain his excitement about getting to see Starr up close.

"He was the best quarterback of his time, bar none," Caudle said. "He doesn't get the recognition he deserves. He won five championships."

Laurie Rowley was snapping photos of her grandfather as he made his way up to Starr's table, and she described how Caudle has multiple pictures of Starr on the walls of his house. His devotion to the Packers is such that even though his vision is failing him as he gets older, he still comes to games at Lambeau just to be a part of the crowd.

"I have to tell him all the plays," Rowley said. "But he still comes to the games just to be here."

And with the surprise Starr appearance, he was more than pleased he made the long trip this weekend.

"That's the kind of person Bart is," Caudle said. "He's a standout ballplayer and a good person. I think all the fans appreciate him, at least they should."

After Starr, the next loudest ovation from the fans during the kickoff event was for Chairman and CEO Bob Harlan, who is retiring at the end of May and received a standing ovation for a job well done.

Shortly after leaving the main stage, Harlan took a few moments to speak with reporters about some of the current issues facing the team. Here are some excerpts from those comments:

(On what he's hearing from fans so far during free agency)

If I picked out one thing I've heard a lot of, it's not really in favor of Randy Moss, and I've had a lot of anonymous calls about that. I've had some fans that I've talked to who are concerned that we haven't spent some money, but I try to point out this is the way that (GM) Ted (Thompson) attacked free agency last year. We waited for a while, he didn't want to get in on the early days, he waited and picked up Ryan Pickett and Charles Woodson and it worked out very well. He's going to do it the same way this year, and I don't have a problem with that.

(On taking character risks in acquiring players)

Ted came and talked to me about Koren Robinson, and I have to admit at the beginning I was concerned. I think the thing that swayed me is the fact that Ted said he had worked with the young man, he was a good person, and if he made one more mistake he wouldn't be here. Ted understands how our fans feel about baggage. I've had fans call me and say, 'Bob, I'd rather see you go 0-16 than do some things that were done here in the '80s.' Believe me, I'm as concerned about the image of this franchise as anybody, and will be years from now. It's not just because I'm leaving. But I'm very concerned about how we look next year and the year after that, so we're going to be cautious.

{sportsad300}(On fan reaction to the ticket price increase)

I have not had one call or one letter. I think what it tells us is we've been very cautious about how we've handled prices. I don't want to be in the top five in the league but I don't want to be in the bottom five either. So we sit down and look at it every year, and about every two years we have to do it. I think the fans understand it. I don't think our prices have gotten ridiculous. I do love the fact that we still have two packages. I think that helps us, to have the Green and the Gold package. I'm very comfortable with where we are with the prices. It's interesting. If fans were upset, my phone would have started ringing the next morning, and it hasn't.

(On losing Ahman Green and going about replacing him)

I'm always concerned when we lose people. I was very concerned two years ago when Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle left. But through the draft we found a couple of young guards who are going to play for us for a long time. That person to replace Ahman is out there, maybe he's already on the roster. But if he's not, we'll look around and find somebody. There are people who would love to come and play in Green Bay, I'm not concerned about that at all, and I don't fault the way Ted is doing it.

(On the installation of the new playing surface in the stadium)

The field is coming along fine. We're right on schedule. We got hurt a little bit the last couple weeks (with the heavy snowstorms), but we were ahead of schedule and that happens. We're in a good shape.

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