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Packer Tailgate Tour storms into Superior

From left, Lynn Dickey (12), Paul Coffman (82), Brad Jones (59), Mason Crosby (2), Len Albrecht, Bruce Thompson, Mark Murphy, Jarrett Bush (24), Alex Wizbicki, James Lofton (80), Ray Kosey, Bob DeMeyer, Dave Minor and Rich Reder break ground on the new National Bank of Commerce Sports Complex Thursday afternoon at Superior High School. Superior was a stop on the Packers’ annual Tailgate Tour. (Jed Carlson/ / 6
Presley Bonneville, 7, gets a hug from Packer legend James Lofton during the meet and greet Thursday at Superior High School. (Jed Carlson/ / 6
Rick Raymond and James Lofton.3 / 6
Julie Urban and Paul Coffman4 / 6
Todd and Wyatt Johnson with Lynn Dickey5 / 6
Steve Hendry with Paul Coffman and Lynn Dickey.6 / 6

The 2014 Green Bay Packers Tailgate Tour literally plowed through the Northland this week.

After scheduled stops, as well as a few surprise visits, the Packers survived an early spring storm Wednesday that dropped a foot of snow in the area. But in spite of the snow, the Packers made it to Superior Thursday to help Superior High School with the groundbreaking ceremony for the National Bank of Commerce Spartan Sports Complex and the subsequent Tailgate party.

The Tailgate Tour bus left Green Bay Tuesday morning, and the first Tailgate party took place that night in Escanaba, Mich. After Wednesday’s party at Big Powderhorn Mountain Resort near Ironwood, Mich., the Packers proceeded east on Highway 2 with surprise visits in Ashland Maple.

In Superior, officials were defiant as the storm gained strength Wednesday night.

“We are planning to plow on through, no pun intended,” said Janna Stevens, Superior school district superintendent.

Superior received 8 to 10 inches of snow, but school officials had planned for that event.

Stevens said the district had winter weather in mind when it decided to host the Tailgate Tour indoors at Superior High School.

The district also made special arrangements for the outdoor groundbreaking ceremony for the NBC Spartan Sports Complex.

“We decided to bring in dirt,” Stevens said. “So we can have a shovel of dirt instead of a shovel full of snow.”

Superior’s groundbreaking ceremony and Tailgate Tour went smoothly, but Wednesday’s snowstorm disrupted some of the Packers’ other plans.

A surprise visit to Ashland High School planned for Thursday morning had to be called off after 14 inches of new snow forced classes to be canceled for the day. The Packers visited the Ironwood headquarters of hat manufacturer Stormy Kromer instead and then served customers at the McDonald’s and Subway restaurants in Ashland during the lunch hour.

Students at Northwestern High School had better luck than their Ashland peers, as the Tailgate Tour bus made an unexpected stop in Maple.

“Word leaked out a little bit, but I think most of the kids didn’t know what was going to happen,” said Steve High, NHS principal.

When the Packers representatives arrived Thursday, school officials whisked them into the high school auditorium through the choir entrance and kept them hidden behind the curtains.

Students were released for an assembly at 1:35 p.m., and when they had filled the auditorium, the curtains were drawn back to reveal the Packers.

“I think it was pretty successful,” High said. “I heard a few kids saying, ‘This is the best day ever.’”

The NFL players spoke to the Northwestern students for nearly 45 minutes. High said the focus was on finding your talents and following your dreams.

The Packers representatives then finished off the assembly by tossing mini footballs, hats and other Packers merchandise into the crowd.

“Mason Crosby even kicked a few field goals into the upper section of the auditorium,” High said.

The Tour wraps up with visits Friday at Rice Lake and Saturday at Merrill. The Rice Lake party will take place at the Barron County Fairgrounds.

NOTE: Superior Telegram Sports Editor Ken Olson contributed to this report.