The Green Bay Packers open their training camp in their hometown on Friday, July 26, and it can't come soon enough for the kids who inhabit the unique Midwest town.
Parents know that when the Packers' practices begin, the sun will be shining on their modest homes that are in the neighborhood surrounding Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisc.
They know that their sons and daughters will be up early, riding out on their bicycles and headed for the football field, along with dozens of their friends, to escort one of their NFL heroes to practice, a tradition that is unique to Green Bay.
When the Packers arrive for their summer training camp, they will continue their decades-old tradition, started by legendary coach Vince Lombardi, of having the players ride the neighborhood kids’ bikes from their locker room in Lambeau two blocks to the practice field. Parents want their children to be proud to offer their bikes to one of their hometown heroes.
They are glad that Green Bay is still the sort of place where kids can be kids, play outside and ride their bikes. Some buy shiny new bikes just to catch the eye of one of the Packers who wear the green and gold.
Once the weather begins to warm in a town that is known for frigid temperatures most of the year, there are few days that kids who live nearby the huge stadium don’t ride over to Lambeau Field.
It is only a few blocks away from their homes and it is certainly the center of attention for everyone who lives in town, especially for any young boy or girl who likes athletics at all.
Even though football season is weeks away, why not go to Lambeau Field, the greatest place on earth to many.
Millions come there from all over the nation just to visit the stadium and take the tours to soak in the mystique of the legendary Super Bowl champions who played there. They are always the greatest team on earth, to all Green Bay natives, regardless of how well the Packers may be playing in any given season.
Many of the kids who show up daily during Packers' practice with their bikes have never actually been to a game there.
Sure, they dreamed of one day having their own season tickets, but that was just a dream to most, as few get that privilege. There is a long waiting list for the team that is owned by numerous hometown shareholders who raised money through the sale of stock to keep the team in their town, rather than having it move to a large city.
Still, the kids in town all get to see the Packers practice. They take pride in the fact that one of them has ridden their bike the two blocks from the stadium to the practice field. Some ride scooters over to the field before they can afford a bike and are thrilled when one of the huge linemen asks them about riding it to practice.
Tourists go to take pictures and record videos of how funny it looks seeing these huge players try to navigate the tiny scooters, only to finally give up, sling them over their shoulders and walk over to practice with the kid they chose close by their side.
The kids even get to carry the player’s helmet during their walk. That is really a cool thing to all of them.
“Who do you think will pick your bike this year?” is something that the neighborhood kids regularly ask each other.
“Aaron Rodgers, for sure," many will reply, "unless somebody beats him out to be the new starting quarterback."
The thrill of a lifetime is about to begin for many in Green Bay. It's nice to know some simple things in life still exist in small-town America.