Rolling out the barrel at Lambeau is a Packers polka tradition with a history of famous faces

Kendra Meinert
Green Bay Press-Gazette
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Tessa and Joey Neigum, of Madison, dance to "Roll Out the Barrel" at the start of the fourth quarter during the Green Bay Packers-Minnesota Vikings game on Sept. 15, 2019.

GREEN BAY - One thing you can count on at every home Packers game: Somebody will roll out the barrel and Lambeau Field will have a barrel of fun.

Somewhere between the first time the “Beer Barrel Polka” was played as part of a sponsorship experiment at the stadium and a Sunday in January when actor Will Ferrell helped to introduce it, Wisconsin’s unofficial state song officially became a Lambeau game-day tradition.

Playing it for the third-quarter break has become as much a musical part of a Packers game as cranking Todd Rundgren’s “Bang the Drum All Day” after a touchdown. 

And it’s all because of beer.

The song — referred to as both the “Beer Barrel Polka” and “Roll Out the Barrel” in Wisconsin — got its start as a Lambeau ritual in 2007. Miller was already running commercial spots on the video boards at games, but the Packers wanted to find a way to make the company’s major sponsorship more interactive for fans, said Kandi Goltz, manager of game presentation and live events for the Packers. What about tying it to a polka?

“Hey fans, it’s that time where we combine two great Wisconsin traditions, Miller beer and the ‘Roll Out the Barrel’ polka ...” comes the voice over the sound system. An invited guest, sometimes a celebrity, counts the crowd down to the start of the music and then cameras capture the fans in the stands as they sing and dance along.

It's an instant polka party. 

“It just kind of grew into a life of its own. It’s one of the things that people from other teams comment on. ‘Wow, that’s a really Wisconsin thing, but it’s also well done,’” Goltz said. “The fans love it. Everybody is singing. Everybody is dancing. We do put the words on the video board. Most people know the words.”

What is it about that particular polka that allows it to unite so many people with so many different musical tastes in sheer happiness?

“It’s the only one they know,” said Victor Kapinos, the Allouez musician who recently retired after 35 years of playing in about a dozen different bands, including The Sugarbush Boys.

“It’s got a good melody. That’s why people remember it. The other thing is, of course, if you listen to the lyrics: ‘Roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun. Roll out the barrel, we’ve got the blues on the run ...’ It’s simple. They only sing the chorus. They don’t sing the whole tune.”

The Packers use the University of Wisconsin Varsity Band’s rendition. They listened to a number of versions from other bands, Goltz said, but some just didn’t have enough pep in their step. It was hearing the Badger Band’s standout live performance of the song at Lambeau during halftime and “fifth quarter” performances over the years that initially inspired the Packers to make the polka part of each game, Goltz said. 

“Roll Out the Barrel” is also a fixture at Miller Park, where Milwaukee Brewers fans sing it during the seventh-inning stretch. At Lambeau, it serves a similar function as fans head into the final quarter of the game.

“We need people to get kind of rejuvenated, and it does that. It gets everybody up and dancing and OK, let’s give it our all for the rest of the game,” Goltz said.

Dancing and singing along to "Roll Out the Barrel" during the third quarter break at Green Bay Packers games has been a Lambeau Field tradition since 2007.

Half the fun of “Roll Out the Barrel” happens before all the polkaing even starts. Fans never know who might show up on the video boards to lead them in the countdown to the song. It could be somebody famous in town for the game.

“Saturday Night Live” alum Will Ferrell has done it. So have actor Charlie Sheen, “American Idol” champ Taylor Hicks and rock band Pop Evil.

It could be a celebrity with Wisconsin ties. 

Emmy and Tony-winning actor and Green Bay native Tony Shalhoub and Cambridge-born race car driver Matt Kenseth have done the honors. “Manitowoc Minute” comedian Charlie Berens has joined Jayson Slade, the WIXX-FM on-air personality who is the current on-the-field host at Packers games, to introduce it (and keep 'er movin’).

“When we have a big-name person at a game, it’s a way to get them on the video board and have it feel natural,” Goltz said. 

Knowing the words isn’t a prerequisite to being Slade’s “co-roller,” as he calls them. Ferrell was not familiar with the polka, but it didn’t stop him from having as much fun as everyone else.

“He was so awesome,” Goltz said. “He was such a treat to work with. He was just funny and he was like, ‘I’ll do whatever.’ The fans loved it. That one was very memorable.”

Sometimes Packers alumni who are in attendance get the invite. LeRoy Butler and Antonio Freeman have done it. Other times, it’s a nice way to showcase the pilots who did the flyover at that day’s game. By the time they land at Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport and get back to Lambeau, the timing is perfect to bring them up to the Miller Lite Deck to introduce “Roll Out the Barrel,” Goltz said.

Several dozen cancer survivors have done it together, singing and dancing in matching shirts, for the annual Packers vs. Cancer game. In a bit of perfect casting, the late Windell Middlebrooks, the actor who played the delivery man in a series of popular Miller High Life commercials, did it.

“It’s just been a really great tradition,” Goltz said. “Other teams will come in here and be like, ‘That’s amazing.’ Everybody is up singing and dancing. The whole stadium stands up and does it.”

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Contact Kendra Meinert at 920-431-8347 or Follow her on Twitter @KendraMeinert

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