Ron and Marian Nerstad were presented their award by boys basketball team senior, Josh Olerud.SGH photos by Jon Speltz
Ron and Marian Nerstad were presented their award by boys basketball team senior, Josh Olerud.

SGH photos by Jon Speltz
Utter and complete surprise was the reaction from all of the recipients of this year's Fan of the Year Award who were honored in between the boys and girls double header games on Feb. 15 in Spring Grove.

Each year the Spring Grove Athletic Boosters recognize dedicated fans with this honor.

Senior basketball team member, Josh Olerud, presented the award to Ron and Marian Nerstad and senior player, Addy Cross, announced the award for Jean Happel.

Ron and Marian Nerstad

"We didn't have a clue about the award; we were very surprised," said Ron Nerstad of Spring Grove.

This dedicated couple is the first to be repeat recipients. Ron received the honor in 2000. They hardly miss a game and even attend the weekly summer league basketball games in La Crosse, Wis.

"JC [Nerstad, nephew] asked me a few times during the week if Marian and I would be at the game. He said that Devon [JC's son] would be receiving an award for his Spelling Bee win, so of course we were going to be there. I should have been suspicious, but they really did a good job of keeping it a secret!"

Football and basketball are Nerstad's favorite sports to watch. "We are fond of the kids in the community, and you really get to know them better when you watch them at the games. It's great entertainment for only a few bucks!"

Nerstads own children, Janet and Jeremy, were involved in some sports when they attended Spring Grove High School. Their children are involved in various sports, but do not live in the area.

"Our grandchildren live in California and West Virginia, so we really don't get to see them play; these kids here in Spring Grove are kind of our surrogate grandchildren. We enjoy watching them grow up. It is kind of bittersweet because it seems they grow up so quickly, and then they are gone; it goes by fast!"

"We really have a good bunch of kids here in Spring Grove; not all towns can say that" Ron added. "Our Spring Grove kids have always done well not only in sports, but also in academics and music, that says a lot about the school and community.

"At the games, the kids and parents will come up and thank us for coming, but really we get more out of it than we give."

Jean 'Momma Jean' Happel

"Winning fan of the year this year is beyond any honor I have ever received," remarked Jean Happel of Spring Grove with a big smile. "To say I was surprised is an understatement!

"Earlier that day, I was contemplating about going to the game. Then at different times, Josh [Olerud] and Addy [Cross] asked if I was going because it was senior night, so after that I had to go!

"I also wanted to watch our seniors and cheer them on as this was going to be one of the last opportunities they had to play here in Spring Grove.

"When they got to the Fan of the Year award and Josh finished reading his speech about Nerstads I thought they were done. I was talking to someone, and then I heard Addy read my name. I absolutely froze; it was a complete surprise and shock.

"What an incredible honor to have the kids and parents think so much of me. What a memorable moment for me!"

Happel works in the weight room almost every day with many kids helping them learn how to lift properly and always encouraging them in their strength training.

"These kids make me smile every day. Few people have the opportunity to know these kids on so many levels. I know them through sports, as sons and daughters and as friends. We are fortunate to have the kids in this community that we do.

"I think of all of the things they do - sports, academics, plays, choir, band and all of the other organizations that these kids are a part of. And they do it well...all of it!

"We are also fortunate to have parents and a community that supports all of these organizations. If we take a moment and step back and look at our school and community as a whole, we will truly realize how blessed we are.

"To be a mom is special in the first place, but to be a second mom for so many kids and hearing 'Momma Jean' everywhere I go, is just priceless!"

About the Athletic Boosters

The Spring Grove Athletic Boosters is a volunteer organization that provides support to all Spring Grove sports through fund-raising and events to sustain, develop and promote the athletic programs.

The group meets the first Sunday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the Spring Grove Legion's meeting room. Anyone that is interested in supporting the athletic programs at Spring Grove School is invited to attend.

Booster President Todd Olerud commented on the Fan of the Year awards, "We have such a great fan base here in Spring Grove. At away games, we often have more fans in the bleachers than the home team does; that's pretty neat.

"Josh and Addy did an outstanding job of presenting the awards to the recipients," he continued. "They wrote what they said, and it also gave them a chance to thank all of the fans for supporting them. It was a very nice presentation."