Lambeau’s Festival of Lights tree honors man who died of cancer

The VanderGrintens planted the tree over two decades ago and watched it grow alongside their son
Published: Nov. 28, 2022 at 4:09 PM CST
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The VanderGrinten family watched from their driveway as crews cut down their 45-foot-tall blue spruce.

Paula VanderGrinten donated the tree to the Packers for the annual Festival of Lights.

“She wanted the tree cut down so we could get started with a new one,” husband Al VanderGrinten explained. “Kind of in honor of our son, Garrett, who was a Packers fan and passed away from colon cancer a few years back.”

Doctors diagnosed Garrett with stage four colon cancer in 2017. He was just 27 years old.

“He passed in August of 19... with the cancer. That’s why we decided to do it in his memory,” Paula said.

The VanderGrintens planted the tree over two decades ago. They watched it grow alongside Garrett.

“We used to decorate it with the lights until it got too big. He was always out there helping me string the lights on the tree and all that kind of good stuff,” Al remembered.

Garrett considered himself a true Cheesehead. His family said he went to as many games as possible during his lifetime.

“When he was little he was always wanting to follow the Packers and had favorite players,” Paula said.

Al said, “He managed to find himself a bunch of Packer games to go to, selling brats over at the old Play it Again Sports.”

Even though the tree is bare now, by the end of the week it’s going to shimmer in Harlan Plaza for all to enjoy.

The blue spruce will be lit up during the festival Dec. 3.

“He’s going to be there. He’s going to be watching,” his mother said.