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Tailgate Tour aims to 'put smiles' on faces of Packers fans

Annual event kicked off Tuesday with planned stops across Wisconsin

Former Packers T/G Bryan Bulaga
Former Packers T/G Bryan Bulaga

GREEN BAY – Since its inception in 2006, the Packers Tailgate Tour has traversed every corner of Wisconsin and even extended out into Iowa, Upper Michigan, and Illinois on occasion.

Mark Murphy has been aboard the bus for nearly every one of those trips and yet the journey never gets old for the Packers' president/CEO.

"It's exciting to be here," said Murphy on Tuesday morning before the launch of this year's event. "It's a fun time of year for all of us because the offseason program is getting started. I really enjoy being able to spend time with not only with our current players but the alumni and seeing them interact. They realize they have a lot more in common than you would think."

It's the 18th iteration of the annual event, which paused in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Joining Murphy on this year's trek across southern Wisconsin are current players Kenny Clark, Elgton Jenkins and Rasheed Walker, and Packers alumni Bryan Bulaga, Mike Daniels and Alex Green.

The trip features a series of surprise visits to schools, hospitals, businesses, retirement homes, event venues and community centers, with planned nightly stops in Kenosha on Tuesday, Beloit on Wednesday, Platteville on Thursday, and Sun Prairie on Friday before returning to Green Bay on Saturday.

Along the way, there will be nonprofit fundraisers for local charities each day, with the Packers also presenting donations.

"I just enjoy it," said Jenkins, who also participated in last year's Tailgate Tour. "Just being out there and being able to give back, interact and put smiles on people's faces. It was a great experience last year and this year I want it to be better."

While Green took part in the Tailgate Tour during his playing career, this is the first time Bulaga and Daniels have hopped on the bus. For Bulaga, the close proximity to the start of the offseason program – which begins next Monday for current players – made it difficult to participate during his playing career.

However, Green Bay's longtime starting right tackle always heard good things from teammates who partook in the five-day event.

"Everyone always said it was a great time. It was great to get out in the state and see fans from around the state," said Bulaga, who officially retired as a member of the Packers last November after a 12-year NFL career.

"When (the Packers) asked me to do it this year, it was a no-brainer. Obviously, I'm not getting back to work when I'm in Green Bay anymore, so it's a great opportunity I think to go see fans and to help out a lot of nonprofits and get to go see people where they're from instead of them coming here to see former players and players."

The goal of the Tailgate Tour is to thank far-flung Packers fans, many of whom may not get to Green Bay to see on a game on a regular basis. With a bus adorned with the state of Wisconsin on its side, the Packers eagerly hit the road with connection and outreach in mind.

"I'm looking forward to getting back – go around the state, go to different parts of the state we haven't been in, and meeting the different sections of Packer fans," said Daniels, a former Pro Bowl defensive lineman who played for Green Bay from 2012-18.

"Green Bay, we know this place is insane. They're constantly building on this stadium … but to get around to the other parts of the state where people don't live so close to the stadium, where they have a different kind of appreciation when they see the boys in green, I'm really looking forward to meeting everybody, shaking hands."

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