Time to pack your bags

Bears players and fans are gearing up for the start of the team's annual training camp, which will be held at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais.

Scheduled to begin with a 3:55 p.m. practice Wednesday July 28,the camp will run until August 18.

"This is something that is fun for all of us here at Olivet," said the school's training camp coordinator Gary Griffen. "It's a real change of pace for the University. Hosting the Bears and their many fans here in Bourbonnais has been a wonderful experience."

This year will feature a slightly modified practice schedule with afternoon practices planned for 3:55 p.m. Morning practices will begin at 8:40 a.m. The team will be relocating to Western Illinois University in Macomb August 5,6, and 7 for practice and a special scrimmage against the Rams.

Special events this year include Family Night, which will be held Thursday July 29. Family Night will feature a live music performance at 5:00 p.m. followed by a practice session at 7:10 p.m. There will be a spectacular fireworks show immediately after practice.

Bears Alumni Day is scheduled for Saturday, July 31. Legendary players Brian Baschnagel, Bobby Douglass, Emery Moorehead, Ronnie Bull, Steve McMichael, Thomas Sanders, Dennis McKinnon, Jim Morrissey, Bob Thomas, Shaun Gayle and Wendell Davis are scheduled to appear and will sign autographs in the Youth Football area at 11:00 a.m.

Telemundo, La Ley 107.9 FM and Onda92 will be on hand Sunday August 1 for Hispanic Day. Live broadcasts and special guests will be in attendance. Camp hours on August 1 are from 2-6 p.m. with practice scheduled for 3:55 p.m.

On August 2,Inner City Flag Football Day will take place. The Gatorade Training Camp area will be closed to all but flag football participants. Tuesday August 3 brings a football fundraiser benefiting Special Olympics Illinois. The Special Olympics event includes a Punt, Pass and Kick competition open to all camp visitors. Call (800) 394-0562 for details of this benefit.

Sunday August 8 will feature Bears mascot Staley's birthday bash, to be held in the Kids Zone area. Members of the Armed Forces will be honored at the camp's Armed Forces Day, Sunday August 15. Camp hours on August 15 will be from 3-6 p.m. with a practice at 3:55 p.m.

ONU Appreciation Day, a benefit for Olivet Nazarene College, is scheduled for August 14 with a 3:55 p.m. practice. There will be an admission fee August 14 only of $3 per adult and $2 for students.

One of the most popular venues of last years training camp was the Bears Pro Shop. Clothing and souvenirs will again be available at the Shop, which will be open daily during camp hours. New for 2004 is the Rock Wall Experience. This 24 foot tall rock wall will be open to the public every day of training camp and is free of charge. Check the daily online schedule for times.

Families with children will find plenty to keep their little ones occupied while visiting the Bears this summer. Kids Only Autographs will be held daily during camp sessions at 10:30 a.m. The first 150 children under 12 will receive a pass good for one autograph from that day's featured player. The Kids Zone will offer an interactive football experience geared to ages 12 and under. The Gatorade Junior Training Camp will be held for children ages 4-12 each day of camp. Sign ups will be in the Kids Zone registration area.

Regular camp hours are from 8 a.m. to noon; 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Visitors are encouraged to go to www.bearreport.com or www.bearstrainingcamp.info to check for any last minute changes.

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