The Superior High School choir sent the spirits of Packers Tailgate Tour attendees soaring with its beautiful renditions of the national anthem and "America the Beautiful" to start Day 3 at the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center, a nonprofit organization that hosts veterans, memorials and events honoring Major Bong and other veterans of World War II.
The Tour was there to have breakfast with local veterans and make a $20,000 donation to DAV Superior, which empowers veterans to lead high-quality lives with respect and dignity by providing free and professional assistance to them and their families regarding VA benefits earned through their service. They also offer ride and advocacy services.
DAV's KC Johnson wanted to make sure there were no questions about allegiances in the audience given the location on the border with Minnesota.
"As we look out the windows and see the north shore of Lake Superior and Minnesota, please know that we are in strong Packers country here in Superior," he assured.
Mark Murphy and the members of the Tour thanked the veterans for their service. Murphy spoke of his father, a World War II vet, and the impression his time in the armed forces made on him.
"He often said that he left a boy and came back a man," Murphy said. "We know what serving means to all of you."
Davon House thought of his grandfather, a veteran, as he visited with the group.
"It was awesome," he said. "My grandfather is a veteran and he's so proud and talked to me about it all the time. The people here were excited about us showing up and the energy that I felt was great.
"They loved doing what they did for our country and I really appreciate that and the difference they made."
The Tailgate Tour began Day 3 with a breakfast visit with local veterans at the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center along with two surprise assembly appearances at both Superior Middle School & High School.
The morning's remaining stops were at Superior's high school and middle school, respectively.
In front of 1,200 Spartans at the high school, the Tour spoke of school pride and the importance of giving back to their community. To the school pride theme, House saw the "One Team, One Fight" slogan on the wall and requested the crowd show him what they had by motioning to one side of the gym to get it started and then the other side to shout the second half. It took a few tries, but the room eventually got loud with the students' voices repeating the chant.
In a Tailgate Tour first, a request to sing Happy Birthday to a player was made; however, it was for Romeo Doubs , who was originally scheduled to be on the Tour but couldn't make it due to a conflict.
In another fun moment, a student got booed when he asked if the players would sign his Vikings jersey.
After lunch at Gronk's (not that one), the Tour members enjoyed a visit to New Perspective Senior Living, a home that prioritizes community and makes it easy to stay active and socially connected.
Eddie Lacy particularly enjoyed the visit.
"It's a different form of excitement with how happy they are and how happy we're able to make them," he explained. "One lady was telling me she followed the team since they were only on radio. She's been able to follow the team from radio to black-and-white TV to color TV to HD. That's a really cool transition. And they remember everything. It's awesome."
As the players have passed time on the motor coach between stops, a few lively card games have taken place, with Booray the game of choice. While Jenkins and Jones knew how to play, they are relative newcomers to the game, both learning last season. Jones received tutelage over the Atlantic Ocean on the way home from the Packers game in London last October.
"They knew how to play, but now they really know how to play," House said.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix's mastery of cards extends to tricks as well, with some young fans experiencing his sleight of hand at a VIP reception prior to the night's main event at Ashland High School.
"No way!" one exclaimed as Clinton-Dix turned over a card that was initially shown at the beginning of the trick.
"How does that work?" asked another.
The Tailgate Tour caught up with fans on Thursday afternoon at the New Perspective Senior Living center and enjoyed the outdoors at Amnicon Falls State Park.
In the evening, hundreds of fans were in attendance at the high school for the event to raise funds for the athletic programs of the Oredockers, one of the better high school mascot names the Tour has experienced over the years. It is an homage to the ore docks in Ashland, which loaded the mined iron ore from the region on ships to reach mills elsewhere in the country.
The Packers donated $20,000 to the foundation and Associated Bank added a $4,000 donation.
One of the great features of the Tours over the years has been events like this, where fans can see the players in a different light and hear them talk about their careers, personal lives and some memorable life moments.
After being asked what it was like playing in the colder climes of Lambeau Field after a warm-weather college experience, Clinton-Dix relayed a fun story from his experience at Alabama.
"It was a 60-degree day and I had my thermals on and my hoodie," he recalled. "Nick Saban, our coach, said, 'What the hell are you doing with all that?' I said, 'I'm cold, Coach.' He said, 'What are you going to do if Green Bay drafts you?' I said, 'I won't go.' I, of course, ended up getting drafted by Green Bay and got used to it."
It was a visit the community appreciated.
"The tradition of the Green Bay Packers obviously goes way back and to see them come and make a difference in our community just meant so much," said Ashland High School principal Brian Trettin. "I saw so many people leave with tears in their eyes and gratitude in their hearts. I think that's what this community is all about, too.
"We embrace what it means to be Oredock strong and that's what the Green Bay Packers are. They're strong, right, and they came here and they talked about mental toughness and grit and that means a lot to our students, our staff and our community. It just means the world to us to have them here and making a difference in our community and for our students."
The Packers Tailgate Tour caught up with fans at The Local Bar & Grille before visiting with students & members of the Wisconsin National Guard at Ashland High School.