ASHWAUBENON - Among the tens of thousands of people tailgating before Sunday's Green Bay Packers game was a group from Ontario, Canada. The football fans have attended games in half of the NFL's 32 cities. Sunday was their first time in Titletown.
Deep fried turkey and stuffed mushrooms may seem like elaborate tailgate food to some, but for the group of 16 men from Sault Ste. Marie, it's a yearly tradition. They've been attending NFL games together since 1994.
Paul Greely, along with his son Cale Krezek and other friends, went to one Detroit Lions game each year from 1994-1998. In 1999, the group decided they wanted to experience more NFL cities. It became a yearly tradition.
"About the third year, we developed the name "The Gators" because we were professional tailgaters. We do tailgating at a kicked up level," said Greely.
They finally made it to Green Bay this weekend.
"Green Bay has been a longtime destination, but I guess I don't have to tell you if you live here, the tickets are sometimes hard to come by," Greely said.
Krezek commented on what he sees in Green Bay that's different from other NFL cities.
"We've never been to a place where you have the practice facility right beside, and you're driving by houses, and you have people parked on their front lawn," he said.
"The Gators" drew some attention from fans around them as they tailgated in the parking lot behind Brett Favre Steakhouse. Karen Wenta from Wisconsin Rapids was with her friends next to "The Gators."
"Looks like they're pros," Wenta said. "We were a little worried about the turkey fryer, seen a lot of fires, but they have it down."
Greely said the group changes a bit every year. They make special t-shirts for each year. This year's had a dedication to a group member who died in the last year.
"We're going to have one for Shep today," said Greely.
Last year, the group was in New York and ran into some extreme weather.
"A major highlight, obviously, was last year when we were in New York City, went to the game on Sunday, and at two o'clock that morning, Hurricane Sandy hit," said Greely. "Those of us that were there have the Hurricane Sandy survivors' down our sleeve."
Last year was Ivan Rosset's first game with "The Gators."
"Maybe I should have asked more questions when I first went, but these guys are a great bunch of guys, they're really hardcore," Rosset said.
After making trips to 16 NFL cities, "The Gators" say the people in Green Bay are one thing they'll always remember."
"Green Bay is a city that we find to be very similar to our city at home in Sault Ste. Marie with very, very friendly people," said Greely. "Everybody we met here is just awesome to deal with."
Nathan Hanes was with "The Gators" for the first time this weekend.
"Green Bay's been fantastic," said Hanes. "I've never met friendlier people. Everybody's just, 'Come on in, have a good time.' We met some people last night, they invited us back to a house party."
The group also took time to visit the city's downtown, the stadium district and the Packers Hall of Fame.
"The Gators" were able to get group tickets for Sunday's game in the new south end zone seats. They said they always cheer for the home team.
They hope to make it to all 32 NFL cities. Next year, they plan to travel to Denver.
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