CHICAGO — The NFL is celebrating a century with a huge festival in Grant Park Thursday, as the Bears prepare to take on the Packers in Chicago to open the 2019 season.
Chicago - Green Bay is the longest running rivalry in the league, with the Packers holding a two game edge of 97 wins to the Bears' 95, while there has been 6 ties.
After a season that ended in heartbreak and a double doink, fans say they're ready to turn the page to 100.
At the free, public NFL Experience Festival in Grant Park Thursday, the crowd was teeming with Bears jerseys honoring the familiar numbers of legends like Walter Payton and Dick Butkus, not to mention original t-shirts that are a bit more creative.
It’s no secret that Bears fans wear their hearts on their sleeves, even as they tackle football drills, attempt field goals and pay homage to Bears greats at a museum featuring their Hall of Fame busts. But the focus is all on fans and their love of football.
Former Bears like Matt Forte, Richard Dent, Charles Tillman and Jim McMahon were even on hand to sign autographs.
“Bears fans are the best," Forte said.
Fans also celebrated their own (often long) history with their favorite team. One group tailgating for the occasion said they began 20 years ago, when quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was just five years old.
"We have tenderloin, shrimp to cook for like 70 people, crab claws, crab legs; everything," grillmaster Chris King said.
The festival's headline acts are still to come, with Meghan Trainor scheduled to begin at 5:15 p.m., and Meek Mill performing at 6:25 p.m. The festival grounds will remain open for a watch party, where fans can take in the game on large screens in the park.
Kickoff for the Bears -Packers game will be at 7:20 p.m. at Soldier Field.