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Fairy-tale trip leaves hometown crew exhausted but happy

January 28, 1997

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) _ The hometown cheerleaders who almost missed out on the Packers’ trip to the Super Bowl returned to Green Bay still savoring an experience that nearly passed them by.

``It was a great time; it was a chance of a lifetime,″ said Cindy Kochanski, a University of Wisconsin-Green Bay freshman from Cudahy. ``It was like a fairy tale for all of us. All the fans were supporting us. We had a great time cheering at the Super Bowl.″

The 13-member UW-Green Bay squad has cheered for the Packers at home games the past five years but didn’t get invited to the Super Bowl until news reports a week ago disclosed it wasn’t going to New Orleans.

The publicity helped launch a private fund-raising campaign, and the Packers made arrangements for the team to cheer from the sidelines if it could get to New Orleans.

Madison businessman David Reinke donated seats on a chartered jet for the students and their coach. He also provided them with Packers-themed T-shirts and denim shirts that had ``UW-Green Bay cheerleaders″ printed on the backs.

During their three-day visit, they stayed on a docked cruise ship near the French Quarter as guests of CBS Radio.

``It was unbelievable,″ said Cathy Grabowski, a freshman from Milwaukee, after the team arrived home Monday.

``At first, we weren’t going, and all of a sudden we were there. It was the chance of a lifetime, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget it,″ she said.

``We certainly just received tons and tons of nice comments,″ coach Ann Rodrian said.

``Even when we were down on the field, personnel who worked with the Saints and some NFL personnel came up to me and said how glad they were things worked out,″ she said. ``People were glad to see our type of cheerleaders there.″