Fan Appreciation day

Thousands of Bears fans braved the midsummer heat to gather at the team's training site in Bourbonnais for Fan Appreciation Day. The event, which was held on Saturday, August 3, offered spectators a chance to be ‘up close and personal' with the players during practice, a barbecue, and an informal autograph session. Proceeds from an afternoon scrimmage benefited Olivet Nazarene University, host of the training camp.

"I'm a longtime Bears backer," said Randy Hillman of Rockford. "I've been going to training camp in Platteville for a number of years and was curious to see what kind of training area Bourbonnais would provide. This is a really nice. You can see that a lot of effort went into providing first rate facilities. The community seems to be quite supportive of the Bears and excited to have training camp in this location."

One of the more popular features with the fans was the NFL interactive play park for children.

Melissa Krieg, a self proclaimed "Bears fan since birth" who lives in Bourbonnais carried two-year-old son Peyton through the activity center. Although too young to participate, Peyton seemed fascinated by the football oriented festivities.

"It would be great if he ended up as a football player just like his namesake, Walter Payton," Krieg said. "We're doing our best to expose him to the game, even at this age."

Like many other Bourbonnais residents, Krieg had eagerly anticipated the beginning of training camp.

"I just couldn't wait for the team to come here," she said. "An event like the one taking place right now shows us that our interest in the team is appreciated. The Bears have gone out of their way to give us a chance to see the players up close. It's a great opportunity, and something I wouldn't think of missing."

A number of fans wore jerseys featuring their favorite players. Larry and Jacqueline Gaston of Chicago proudly displayed their allegiance to defensive end Bryan Robinson.

"He's fun to watch. I've always felt he was one of the best players on the team. That's why I wear his jersey," Larry Gaston said. "I also like Urlacher and Marcus Robinson. We are longtime Bears fans. Meeting any player today would be a real thrill. I'm hoping to get some autographs and maybe have the chance to talk to one or two of them after practice."

Brad Hutchinson of Pekin, a member of a large family group, came to Bourbonnais for the chance to spend a day with the players.

"I watch all of the Bears games on TV," he said. "Since they play in Champaign this year, I'll probably go to a few of the home games as well. Fan Appreciation Day is a wonderful concept. It's a wholesome environment with something for every member of the family. You can take your kids, spend a nice day outdoors, have a hamburger, and watch some great football. My favorite player is Big Cat Williams. He's a lot of fun to watch. I'm going to get his autograph later."

Fans crowded into the souvenir area to purchase sweatshirts, t-shirts, replica jerseys, hats, and other football oriented merchandise. Many took the opportunity to be photographed next to the life-sized cutouts of various players.

"I think I'll get some photos of my sons Paul and Joe with the cut out of Mike Brown. What a great souvenir for them." said Bob Galvin of Schererville, Indiana. "This kind of event makes me glad to be a Bears fan. It's been a lot of fun and something that each of us has enjoyed. We'll definitely come here next year."

Bear Report Top Stories