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Stu’s kind of night: Concert raises money for McMurtrie Preserve

A packed house listened to Nelson’s Willie perform Saturday night at Champs Bar & Grill as part of a benefit in memory of Stuart Nelson. (Photo by Tom Lindfors)1 / 11
Members of Nelson’s Willie with guest Wendy Nelson, entertained a packed house Saturday night at Stu Jam, a benefit honoring Stuart Nelson. (Photo by Tom Lindfors)2 / 11
Collin Campbell (left) gets his big break on keyboards with Eric Nelson and his band, Smothered in Bacon, at Stu Jam Saturday night at Champs Bar & Grill. (Photo by Tom Lindfors)3 / 11
Stuart Nelson’s wife Sandy (right) and Linda Sharrett enjoy the benefit in Stu’s memory Saturday night at Champ’s Bar & Grill. (Photo by Tom Lindfors)4 / 11
Kara Gaspord, Stuart’s daughter (left), and Wendy Nelson, Stuart’s sister (right), celebrate at Stu Jam Saturday night in New Richmond. (Photo by Tom Lindfors)5 / 11
Eric Nelson emceed Stu Jam, a benefit in his father Stuart Nelson’s honor, Saturday night at Champs Bar & Grill in New Richmond. (Photo by Tom Lindfors)6 / 11
Members of the Stuart Nelson family hope money raised Saturday night at Stu Jam will help to surpass the $20,000 mark in donations destined for the McMurtrie Preserve on Cedar Lake. (Photo by Tom Lindfors) 7 / 11
Stuart Nelson’s son, Eric, hams it up for the camera with Cheryl Clemens of the Star Prairie Land Preservation Trust, at Stu Jam, a benefit in Stuart’s memory Saturday night at Champs Bar & Grill in New Richmond. (Photo by Tom Lindfors) 8 / 11
A packed house enjoys the music of Smothered in Bacon at Stu Jam, a benefit in honor of Stuart Nelson, Saturday night at Champs Bar & Grill in New Richmond. (Photo by Tom Lindfors)9 / 11
Eric Nelson performs as a member of Nelson’s Willie during Stu Jam, a benefit in his father Stuart’s honor Saturday night in New Richmond. (Photo by Tom Lindfors)10 / 11
Eric Nelson raises his glass in a toast to his father, Stu, at the Jam Saturday night. (Photo by Tom Lindfors)11 / 11

A packed house showed up Saturday night at Champs Bar & Grill in New Richmond for Stu Jam, a musical benefit in honor of recently deceased Citizen of the Year Stuart Nelson.

Nelson’s influence throughout the community was evident as family members shared the dance floor with folks from Bremer Bank, Star Prairie Fish and Game, the Star Prairie Land Preservation Trust and many other friends whose lives were touched by Stuart Nelson.

“He loved rock and roll and always had music playing as he drove. He sang and played his granddaughters’ favorite songs whenever they wanted. He was a big fan of the bands playing here tonight and had a personal relationship with all the band members for many, many years,” said Eric Nelson, Stuart’s son and the inspiration behind the Stu Jam event.

That personal relationship may have stemmed from the fact that Eric Nelson is a member of all four bands that played at the jam; Ingenious Whittler, The Firm Stools, Smothered in Bacon and Nelson’s Willie.

Money raised from the Jam is being donated to the McMurtrie Preserve on Cedar Lake, a walking outdoor classroom program near and dear to Stuart Nelson’s heart.

“Dad was the first president of the Star Prairie Land Preservation Trust and did a wonderful job of setting up the walking classroom by Cedar Lake. I don’t know if it was his idea or not, because he never took credit for anything, even if it was his idea. He was all about the environment and learning about it. The walking classroom at McMurtrie is a delightful way for others to see the western Wisconsin environment and wildlife in all its glory in many different seasons,” Nelson said.

“Walking with him as he proudly pointed out all of the wildlife gems — the big eagle’s nest, the deer rubs, the pheasant coves, the wildflowers — was one of my favorite memories of my dad,” Nelson added.

Equally fond of music, Stuart could just as easily be found dancing to the music of any of the night’s bands on a visit to Madison according to his son.

“Stu enjoyed the Firm Stools playing at the Copper Grid in Madison, encouraging cheers and dancing for everyone,” Nelson said.

The Nelson family hopes to top the $20,000 mark with the money raised via memorials and the Stu Jam all to be donated the McMurtrie Preserve.

“It is built and all ready for visitors. Now, we just want to find ways for people to use it. The sky is the limit,” Nelson said.

Donations can be made in Stu’s name to the Star Prairie Land Preservation Trust, PO Box 88, Star Prairie, WI 54026-5301.

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