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Martin, Lambeau Field 2010

Over the long Thanksgiving weekend, my buddy Dan and I took a mini road trip up to Wisconsin. It was a chance to get away from the norm, see something new and have some fun.

We left on Friday morning straight for Green Bay. Once we got up there, we braved the cold and walked around the downtown area and checked out a few of the establishments. After a late dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings (because we can’t get enough of that back home), we walked around some more until we found ourselves on the hallow grounds of Lambeau Field – marking my first time seeing the stadium in person.

Lambeau Field Oneida Gate Entrance

My maiden voyage up these sacred steps into Lambeau Field.

As we walked around the east gates off Oneida St., we soon discovered entrance doors into the atrium which still happened to be open. Unfortunately, the team gift shop and bar had just passed closing time so asides from walking around the open atrium, there wasn’t much to see. Despite that, just standing there inside the home of the Packers for the first time was quite special.

Lambeau Field Atrium

Inside the Lambeau Field Atrium. Inside the iconic stadium for the first time ever.

We returned to Lambeau the next morning to take in a group tour of the field. The 90 minute tour took us to various parts within the stadium with the grand finale being that you walk out through the player’s entrance tunnel (!) onto the south end zone. The husband-and-wife couple did a great job at conveying the team’s prestigious history and at explaining how the team continues to overcome the unique financial challenges of being “publically owned” while also happening to play in the NFL’s smallest market.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn near the end of the tour that the couple were previously from Park Forest, IL, which neighbors with Richton Park, the town I spent the first 12 years of my life growing up in. What a small world.

Lambeau Field, from the South End Zone

Lambeau Field, taken from the south end zone.

Not lost on me was how friendly the people in Green Bay were. It reminded me of how overly nice the people seemed during trips to Athens, GA and the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee earlier this year. When you leave the Chicago area and venture into smaller towns, the people are noticeably nicer.

While we were only in Green Bay for barely one day, it was long enough for me to grow an appreciation for the city. Something about that small town up in the middle of nowhere. It probably doesn’t hurt that my favorite football team also happens to play there.

We got down to Madison by Saturday afternoon. It didn’t take too long before sensing that the people there were not as friendly as in Green Bay. The vibe reminded me more of how people act here at home – not necessarily mean, just more disinterested.

Wisconsin State Capitol

The Wisconsin State Capitol building.

After exploring downtown Madison for a while, we were ready to rest, while I was hoping to see some of the Badgers game. As expected, all of the bars were packed, but we did luck out in finding one place that had a couple of open seats, allowing me to watch most of the second half. While I’m not a huge college football fan, I’ve always leaned towards the Badgers so it was fun to be there that day when they beat the Wildcats, becoming co-champions of the Big Ten while also earning a spot at the Rose Bowl.

I’d love to return to Madison to see more of the city and to see a Badgers game at Camp Randall, possibly next fall when the temperatures might still be decent. Of course, I think about the weather in hindsight considering how extremely cold both nights were up there, especially that first night in Green Bay.

What else should we have expected for Wisconsin at the end of November?

Downtown Madison, Wisconsin

Downtown Madison.

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