The Packers Have Little Connection to the Fans These Days

For the third consecutive year, there is a part of being a Packers fan that is missing.

After a successful six year run, the Green Bay Packers did not hold their Fan Fest  for the third straight year.  Instead of  fans flocking to Green Bay to pay tribute to their favorite team, the dead of winter was replaced by snow, and worst of all, silence.

The reasoning behind the cancelling of Fan Fest, according to the team, was declining interest from the fan base. After topping out at 3,000 in 2007, ticket sales fell to less than 2,200 during 2010, the last year it was held.

There is some truth to why interest from the fans in an event held solely for the fans would be. The first was the price. At $85 per ticket for the two and a half day event, it was a steep investment for the ordinary fan to venture to Green Bay, book a hotel, and pay for the tickets. Throw in the inevitable stop at the Pro Shop, food, and any Packers related souvenir one may want, and the cost to attend this event skyrocketed.

A second, and perhaps more telling reason why interest declined, was the fans themselves. Far too few were interested in the actual event, and far too many were  interested in obtaining autographs from the number of Packer personnel present. The day often consisted of devising strategies to obtain the most signatures possible, while professional autograph seekers would load up on signed items to later sell and profit from. Pushing and shoving to get to this player or that player was common place. Meanwhile, interesting Q&A sessions with former players or speaking sessions with GM Ted Thompson or Team President Mark Murphy were sparsely attended, because of the focus of getting items signed.

It was far from a perfect event, and something that definitely needs fixing if it is going to reappear at some time in the future.

The problem is that the Packers, the team with the most passionate fans in the NFL if not all of professional sports, now has very little to connect the team with the fans.

Fan Fest is gone. The Draft Party has gone from being a mini Fan Fest to an afterthought held in the cramped quarters of Curly’s Pub. And while the Tailgate Tour does make an effort to reach different areas of Wisconsin (and this year, for the first time, Iowa) it is nothing  compared to the magnitude that a Fan Fest could have with regards to reaching out to the fans.

By not holding a major event for the fans for yet another year, it is almost as if the organization is too business like. Much less in touch with the fans, the people who live and die to support the team, than ever before.

As was mentioned previously, there are things that need to be addressed before a major Fan Fest type event could be held again. The price is definitely that would need to be looked at closely. It would have to be worthwhile for the team to make a profit off of, without sacrificing attendance because of the costs to the fans to attend. One idea could be one day tickets for $30. Cut the cost to the attendees, and perhaps they will come back. It might also entice local residents who were reluctant to pay the full price to go for one of the multiple days, depending on their schedules.

The autograph seekers will always be around. It is part of any event where present and former players are scheduled to appear. But if the Packers could figure out a way to have all the players in one location to do signings, and perhaps charge more for tickets to those individuals who only want signatures, it might be a way for the team to make more money, while clearing out some of the congestion for people who are equally interested in hearing people speak as they are in having someone sign a helmet or football.

These are just a few ideas to correct some of the wrongs that Fan Fest had become. Whether they are implemented remains to be seen.

There is one more thing to think about as it relates to a fan convention for the Green Bay Packers-the success of the team. When Fan Fest started in 2005, the Packers were at a low for the first time in years. Mike Sherman had his General Manager title stripped. The team had been spanked by the Vikings in the playoffs. Brett Favre had just played his worst playoff game in years. The team was in need of a boost. A shot of morale for everyone who supported the green and gold. By the time Fan Fest had run its course in 2010, they were  a team on the rise, with Mike McCarthy, Aaron Rodgers and company setting the stage for a Super Bowl run the following season. There was no reason to continue to operate an event like Fan Fest because morale was already high. It’s purpose had come and went.

When the Packers are not as successful as they currently are, because everything is cyclical in the NFL, I would be willing to bet that is when Fan Fest, or some new creation of it, will return. When everyone needs just a little pick me up after a bummer of a season.

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  • I have been to all of the prior Packer Fan Fest. People may bump into one another because some lines get big, but I have never seen pushing and shoving going on. What caused the biggest decrease in attendance is that the more well known starters stopped coming to this event or never attended (Rodgers, Matthews, Woodson, Jennings, Nelson…). Driver and most of the offensive line starters came. At the last one that was held Driver had two sessions and the lines were big both times for him. Yes, the player lines are the biggest draw to get and autograph and more so for some is their only chance to see them for a second one on one, say hi and thanks.

    I do understand that some people do sell their autograhs, but most of the Packer fans I know, want to meet the players, get an item signed for themselves or for someone else so that they have it and the memories of meeting them.

    Thanks,
    Steve

    • I left this comment on your FB page as well, but wanted to leave it here as well for others to see:

      I was only at the last fan Fest, and I witnessed pushing in the autograph lines. Not all out fighting, but enough that I noticed. That is the only reason I included that in this article.

      And you’re right-meeting other fans is a great experience. But the point of the entire post was not to criticize the fans. It was to call out that the organization has dropped the ball by not continuing to host a Fest for the fans. I wanted to make that point very clear in the article, so if i didn’t I’ll take the blame for that.

      I think it’s great that Wayne Sargent and yourself host the Fan connection. It makes up for something the Packers should be doing themselves

  • I have attended all of the previous “Fan Fests” that the Packers held. The first years were a great success for a few reasons. Those being it was a new event, there were star attractions such as Favre, Starr and others. However as the years moved on as did the players. The event was shorten and the cost got higher. The players that appeared in the following years were identical to years past. Sure Bart and DD were there, but to meet these guys only by the chance of getting a winning scratch ticket was next to none as the supply was limited. It was poorly run. The last event I bought 3 $85.00 packages with the hopes of meeting DD or Bart. Two were identical and they wouldn’t let me exchange on for a different one. I didn’t find a winning ticket.

    So we took it upon ourselves to start up “The Ultimate Packer Fan Connection”. The event is held the Saturday before the Donald Driver Celebrity Softball Game to insure a full weekend of Packer related festivities. The event is hosted each year by a different player for a different cause. Last years event was hosted by Ahman Green for Make-A-Wish. This year it is hosted by William Henderson for Children’s Autism. Next year it will be hosted by Willie Davis for his Youth Scholarship Fund. This is a free event and has a lot to offer. Come join us on June 15th at The Stadium View to meet some of your favorite players from the past and the future.

  • Jerry Hanson

    I too have been to every Packersfest. The March date worked beautifully for me and my sons. Being a construction worker I am off in the winter months and really looked forward to Fanfest. My two sons , one living in Vikings country and the other in Appleton and myself from West Salem, WI had this marked as a yearly get together for a father and son weekend. We have always collected Packers Autographs for the last 40 years.Now we don`t ever seem to be able to enjoy our favorite hobby anymore without Packersfest. We thought ever thing at the fest was great (especilly the trading of tickets).Although the players list (stars and superstars) declined greatly we would still love to see it come back. I t seems the Packers are getting to BIG TIME now for us little people.

    • As i stated in my reply to Steve, I went to only one Fan Fest. I was not so much concerned about who’s autographs I was going to get, but was interested in the experience. A gathering of the best fans at the best stadium for the best team-it was something that just seemed a necessary part of being a Packer fan.

      When they took it away, I couldn’t (and still don’t) understand the reason why. It really seems like the organization has turned it’s back on the fans with regards to events like this. For as intense the fans are to follow the team and their every move, not having some sort of fest for the fans seems very cold, very un-Packer like.

      Thanks for reading!

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  • Chris

    My son and I attended Fast Fest one year and the tickets were $25.00 per person which I felt was more than reasonable. We had a great time because we got to meet so many players and all the autographs were for my son which he still has. We went the Fan fest the following year and the tickets went up drastically but we were still able to meet and talk to alot of current and past players still worth it. The third year the prices went up again but they did not have any first string players scheduled for appearance. We love the packers and in the past rarely missed a signing and it wasn’t for their autographs it was to personally meet them but you do not have this opportunity anymore which I think is a shame from a team who always had such a loyal fan base