By Doug Halberstadt
Last Saturday, Oct. 8, I ventured to the dark side. I crossed the “Cheddar Curtain” and ventured into enemy territory. As a Bears fan, it’s not something I usually do during the football season. A quest for some rest and relaxation and the pursuit of some colorful fall foliage were the motivation to head up north.
My destination was Mayville, Wis. It’s a town of about 5,200 people. I’m fairly certain all of them are loyal Packers fans.
It was a picture-perfect day for a drive. I left the Rockford area around noon and was not on any time schedule as I headed for the town located northeast of Madison and south of Oshkosh.
I’m a firm believer to get the true flavor of a town, you have to visit one of their bars, preferably a sports bar. So, that is precisely what I did immediately after checking into the Audubon Inn and hitting a couple of other mandatory stops — a local cheese store and a chocolate shop.
About a block away was the Bridge Street Pub. It’s a place I highly recommend if you are ever in the neighborhood. It’s where all the action in Mayville happens. Let me tell you why.
I liked the place even before we went inside. Several people were gathered outside the pub on the sidewalk. They exited and entered through the pub’s side screen door. I inquired if it was OK for non-regulars to use that “private” entrance. They assured me it was, and immediately welcomed us with open arms. They didn’t know I was a Bears fan at this point.
Once inside, anyone could tell this is where the townsfolk gathered to cheer on their beloved Brewers, Badgers and, of course, “The Pack.” The place was crowded, even though none of those teams was in action on this Saturday afternoon. That, in and of itself, told me this was the place to be.
I met a woman named Meredith. She immediately gave us her seats at the bar and bought us our first beverages. She introduced us to several of the other regulars, Al and his wife, Peggy, and “Larry” the bartender. His real name is Chris Perres, but everyone calls him Larry because he looks just like Larry the Cable Guy.
It happened to be Rich’s (the proprietor) 40th birthday. That meant the 6-foot pool table was covered with a couple of crock-pots and a variety of meats and, of course, Wisconsin cheeses. There was another table for the birthday cake. It was complimentary for all the regulars, and they insisted that we “help ourselves.”
It didn’t take long for them to ask where we were from and what we were doing in their town. That’s when we dropped the bomb on them. We were from Rockford, Ill., and we were Bears fans. That’s when I thought the party may have been over for us, and we’d end up spending the rest of the evening in our room watching re-runs of The Golden Girls.
That’s when the bomb was dropped back on me, just the opposite happened. Despite our being flatlander Bears fans, they still treated us like welcome guests at their party. We traded friendly jabs about the Packers and the Bears, but nothing nasty or ugly whatsoever. As a matter of fact, I still have a couple of unused drink markers that I didn’t even cash in, courtesy of Al.
This proved to me that even during the season, on a sunny Saturday afternoon/evening in a small town in Wisconsin, a couple of Bears fans and a bar full of Packers fans can get along and have a good time.
A few hours later, we said our so longs and bad lucks to each other. Larry got in the final shot. He said, “Hey, Doug, do you know what you call 25 guys in Illinois with nothing to do this time of year?” I said “No, what?” He replied, “The Cubs.”
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Oct. 12-18, 2011, issue