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.