Talking with Packers historian Denis Gullickson about Saturday’s first annual Green Bay Football History Event
This story appears in the October 2014 issue of Packerland Pride magazine. Subscribe to the magazine here.
Denis Gullickson is an author and Packers historian who, in the first annual Green Bay Football History Event coming on Saturday, Nov. 8, this year at Hagemeister Park in downtown Green Bay, is finally putting a vision he’s had for awhile to life. We chatted with Gullickson via email about the upcoming event, how it came about, and Packers history.
Packerland Pride: How did the idea for this event come about?
Gullickson: I’ll quote the great Lee Remmel in saying, “The Packers are the greatest story in all of sports.” I completely agree. A big part of why is the team’s great history. I think every fan sitting in Lambeau Field on gameday should know how lucky they are to be rooting for a team that finds its origins in the Town Team era, has teetered on folding on several occasions, is still owned by the fans and, yet, has been a part of some of the greatest moments in football and amassed the most championships and other accolades of any NFL team.
The fact that so many folks have celebrated that history in so many different ways warrants some consideration. I’m not just talking authors, either. There’s the excellent work on the Walk of Legends, the Packers Heritage Trail, and you name it. Researchers continue to delve into that history and produce works of art and popular culture.
What’s the format of the events?
Gullickson: I envisioned the Green Bay Football History Event to be kind of a vaudevillian event – not just a bunch of stuffy authors talking on and on about their book and whatever. Rather, I wanted it to be an eclectic assemblage of various “takes” on the history of the game in Titletown. In fact, some of that would go back even earlier than the formation of the Packers – who were, really, just the 1919 version of the town teams that represented Green Bay from 1895 on.
We will be meeting in the “1919 Room” at Hagemeister Park on Washington Street in Green Bay – just a short distance from where the Beaumont Hotel stood, where the Packers celebrated some of their earliest NFL championships. There will actually be two “performances,” if you will – a matinee at 1 p.m. and an evening presentation at 5. Folks will be able to order food and drinks from the Hagemeister Park kitchen and bar – including a couple of entrees from the menu of the historic Hotel Northland, which factored into Packers history a bit later.
What (and who) should we expect to see at the event?
Gullickson: I will kick the event off with a tip of the hat to Lee Remmel – former Green Bay Press-Gazette sportswriter, Packers public relations director, and team historian – who will be the first honoree of the event. Each year, we’ll do that: Honor someone from the team and town’s football history. I will also talk a bit about the Packers as “The Last Town Team” – reflecting on the good old days when a group of guys got together, organized for battle on the gridiron, and hoped the town would support them.
Then things really take off. I am hoping to have someone talk about the Packers Heritage Trail or the Walk of Legends. After that, we have a scene from a stage play, “Vagabond Halfback,” which will have Johnny “Blood” McNally swinging into action off the top of a railroad car, where he minces words with Benny Friedman and the attractive, sophisticated Genevieve Frechette.
Author Jim Lefebvre will be on hand to talk about the early football connections between Green Bay and the University of Notre Dame – touching on Curly Lambeau and Sleepy Jim Crowley, amongst others. Closing things out will be Michael Neelsen, who will talk about and show his film on Brett Favre, “Last Day at Lambeau.”
We’ll have signed, personalized books and DVDs for sale, and there will be opportunities before and after for attendees to talk to the presenters and authors on hand. All of that while enjoying Hagemeister Park’s fine food and drink.
Why was Hagemeister Park in downtown Green Bay the right spot for this? And it can’t be a coincidence that the Packers and Bears play the next day, right?
Gullickson: The folks at Hagemeister Park have done an excellent job of recognizing – not just the Packers history, but all of Green Bay’s history, including other sports as well. The “1919 Room” itself has photographs of Titletown’s first championship football team from 1897, as well as the founder of Green Bay football, Fred Hulbert. Hagemeister Park’s manager, Curt Cornell, has played a huge part in shaping the event because, as he said, these are the kinds of things they want to do down there.
And, yes, what better weekend to kick something like this off then Packers-Bears weekend, when we celebrate the renewal of the longest – at least in terms of games played – rivalry in NFL history. Besides, the remarkable history of the Bears can only add to the flavor we were hoping the event would have. And, by the way, Bears fans are welcome and encouraged to attend. Our teams may try to beat the snot out of each other the following evening, but on Saturday, Nov. 8, we can celebrate our shared love for team and NFL history together.
What does it cost, and where can people get more information?
Gullickson: Some of those details are still being worked out. But I am certain once we’ve worked out the price, folks will find it to be one of the best values they’ve enjoyed in recent times.
People who want to attend should visit Hagemeister Park’s website as the event nears for all of that. Most likely, there will be advance tickets available and folks will want to get those as soon as they are available. The “1919 Room” seats about 120 – so only 240 people will get to enjoy this first of what will be an annual event from here on out. Watch for details at www.hagemeisterpark.com. “Hag Park” is located at 325 North Washington Street, and folks can call (920) 884-9909 for more details.