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Packers bring road pep rallies home
GREEN BAY – Packers fans rarely need an excuse to party, but they'll have one Saturday.
The Packers will host a pep rally at 6 p.m. at Lambeau Field, ahead of Sunday's 3:40 p.m. NFL wild-card round playoff game against the New York Giants.
The rally will be in the heated Tundra Tailgate Zone tent in the east parking lot of Lambeau Field. Not an inconsiderable thing, because the National Weather Service forecast calls for Saturday night temperatures of minus-4 degrees. The tent will open at 5 p.m.
The team held rallies for many of its road games this year, but at home normally limits them to special events, such as playoff games. Indoor road rallies this season drew 500 to 1,000 people. Outdoor rallies in Canton, Ohio, and Jacksonville, Fla., had between 2,500 and 3,500 attendees, said Kandi Goltz, Packers manager of game and fan development.
The events are free and don't require a ticket. The Tundra Tailgate Zone tent will hold about 1,700 people.
"Of course, whenever Packer fans get together, it is a blast," said Patti Dierks of River Falls, who attended the rally in Canton. "My husband had his shirt that said 'Joe Buck Sucks,' so he became very popular. The rally had some retired Packers who were very nice to take time to sign autographs and visit with people. All in all, just a wonderful experience."
As with road-game rallies, Saturday's event will include a question-and-answer session with Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy emceed by broadcaster Wayne Larrivee, appearances by Packers alumni Dorsey Levens and Ahman Green, and a game preview by Packers.com writers Mike Spofford and Wes Hodkiewicz. Levens and Green will pose for photos with fans, but aren't scheduled to sign autographs.
"We've got a pretty good format for the pep rally, and it works," Goltz said.
The event also includes giveaways of a Mike Daniels-signed football and helmets signed by Julius Peppers and David Bakhtiari. Fans can register in advance for the drawings at pckrs.com/peprally. You have to be present to win, and registering for the drawing does not guarantee entrance, which is on a first-come, first-served basis.
The home crowd probably will include more families than normally are present on the road, Goltz said.
Having free admission and limited space does have its risks, and venues have to be prepared for the influx of customers. Road rallies are held at Packers bars in NFL cities that meet certain criteria, including capacity for at least 500 people, a stage and an audio system. Initially the team thought the venue had to be near stadiums and fan hotels, but discovered Packers fans will travel.
Some Facebook comments complained about poor service in some venues. Goltz said they review each event after the fact to look for improvements.
At Nashville and Atlanta, fans were lined up around the buildings hoping to get in.
"We have had Mark Murphy go outside and talk to people who didn't get in," Goltz said. "We try to hand out some of the goody stuff outside as well."
For fans who cannot get into Saturday's event, the Lambeau Field Atrium will be a good alternative to standing out in the cold.
The city of Green Bay also will host a pep rally at 3:30 p.m. Friday at the Packers Heritage Trail monument on the corner of Washington and Cherry streets. Frank Hermans of Let Me Be Frank Productions will emcee.
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