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Packers and their fans best blizzard to benefit Grace Place

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New Richmond Mayor Fred Horne kicked of the Chris Kroeze Concert - Packer Tailgate event last Thursday at the New Richmond Airport. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 33
Packer alum pose for a quick pic with fans at the Tailgate Tour Party in New Richmond last Thursday. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 33
Packer CEO Mark Murphy high-fived his way through a gauntlet of cheering fans onto the stage at the Tailgate Tour Party last Thursday at the New Richmond Regional Airport. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia5 / 33
All of Chris Kroeze’s God-given talent was on display on stage Thursday night at the New Richmond Airport including his most endearing quality, his downhome Wisconsin humility. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia6 / 33
Packer alum Aaron Kampman autographed a fan’s overalls at the Tailgate Party last Thursday at the New Richmond Regional Airport. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia 7 / 33
Packer alum took up seats behind a row of tables and settled in to sign autographs for more than 700 fans who had paid in advance for the opportunity last Thursday at the Tailgate Tour Party in New Richmond. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia8 / 33
Packer Alumni Scott Wells took a moment to do a selfie with a couple fans at the Packer Tailgate event last Thursday at the New Richmond Regional Airport. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia9 / 33
Volunteers (from left) Tanya Batchelor, Sam Nolan, Cindy Croes and Arlene Corpuz were having their share of fun at last Thursday’s Chris Kroeze Concert - Packer Tailgate event at the New Richmond Regional Airport. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia10 / 33
Packer alum Scott Wells joined Packer fan Cindy Croes for a photo Thursday, at the Packer Tailgate Tour event in New Richmond. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia11 / 33
Packer alum Nick Barnett shook the hand of a fan at the Packer Tailgate Party last Thursday at the New Richmond Airport.. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia12 / 33
(From left) Candy and Erin Peterson, fans of both the Packers and Chris Kroeze, were hoping to convince Kroeze to autograph his cardboard double before the concert started last Thursday in New Richmond. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia13 / 33
Packer fan Rick Elmer made sure Packer fan Charlee Melby didn’t blow away before the start of the Packer Tailgate party last Thursday at the New Richmond Regional Airport. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia14 / 33
Wisconsin State Sen. Patty Schachtner grabbed a quick photo with Packer alum Aaron Kampman Thursday at the Packer Tailgate Tour event in New Richmond. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia 15 / 33
New Richmond was the third stop on this year’s Packer Tailgate Tour and it was one to remember for the ages. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia16 / 33
Members of the Sosinsky, Stork, Corcoran and Harmon families showed off their Packer love at the Tailgate Tour Party last Thursday at the New Richmond Regional Airport. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia17 / 33
Addison Jeske was hoping to collect some Packer autographs at the Tailgate Tour Party last Thursday at the New Richmond Regional Airport. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia 18 / 33
Members of VFW Post 10818 New Richmond St. Croix County presented the colors before the start of the Chris Kroeze Concert last Thursday at the New Richmond Airport. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia 19 / 33
More than 3,200 fans packed the main hangar at the New Richmond Airport to hear Chris Kroeze perform ahead of the Packer Tailgate Party last Thursday. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia20 / 33
Volunteer Annie Knutson spent the better part of three hours outside helping fans get from buses to the hangar for the Chris Kroeze Concert - Packer Tailgate event last Thursday at the New Richmond Airport. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia21 / 33
Jean Brown of Backwoods Barbeque was one of a number of food vendors forced to make the best of the cold weather at the Chris Kroeze Concert - Packer Tailgate event last Thursday at the New Richmond Regional Airport. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia22 / 33
Packer alum Nick Barnett autographed a familiar jersey for a fan at the Packer Tailgate Party. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia23 / 33
Wisconsin fans loved their own Chris Kroeze in in the hanger Thursday night in New Richmond. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia24 / 33
Packer alumni Scott Wells, Bernardo Harris, Nick Barnett, Earl Dotson, Aaron Kampman, Mark Murphy and Ryan Grant join community members April 11 at the Packet Tailgate. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia25 / 33
Chris Kroeze took a minute to autograph his cardboard self for fan Erin Peterson before taking the stage last Thursday at the New Richmond Airport. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia26 / 33
Pint sized Packer fan Charlee Melby collected an autograph from Packer alum Nick Barnett last Thursday at the Packer Tailgate Party. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia27 / 33
Packer alum Earl Dotson high-fived a fan at last Thursday’s Tailgate Tour Party in New Richmond. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia28 / 33
Fans and players alike had to contend with gale force winds delivering a mixture of rain, sleet and snow creating white out conditions that temporarily closed portions of I-94 and made long sections of State Highway 65 impassable ahead of the Chris Kroeze Concert - Packer Tailgate event last Thursday at the New Richmond Regional Airport. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia29 / 33
Impromptu emcee Paul Mayer joined Packer CEO Mark Murphy and alumni Scott Wells, Nick Barnett, Aaron Kampman, Earl Dotson, Ryan Grant and Bernardo Harrison onstage at the Packer Tailgate Tour event last Thursday at the New Richmond Regional Airport. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia30 / 33
Chris Kroeze pre-heated the standing-room-only crowd of more than 3,200 fans ahead of the Packers’ arrival with the first of two concerts at the New Richmond Airport last Thursday. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia31 / 33
Duana Bremer, Director of Social Services at the Salvation Army’s Grace Place transitional housing program in New Richmond received a certificate of Special Congressional Recognition from U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy’s office. (From left) Steve Massey, Duana Bremer and Mark Bednar. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia32 / 33
Barron, Wis., native and “The Voice” runner up, Chris Kroeze and his band performed two concerts last Thursday in conjunction with the Packer Tailgate Tour at the New Richmond Airport. Tom Lindfors / RiverTown Multimedia33 / 33

Record-setting winter storm Wesley could not deter thousands of determined Packer fans from descending on the Regional Airport in New Richmond for the 14th annual Packer Tailgate Tour, Thursday, April 11.

New Richmond was the third stop on this year's tour and it was one to remember for the ages. Fans and players alike had to contend with gale force winds delivering a mixture of rain, sleet and snow creating white out conditions that temporarily closed portions of I-94 and made long sections of State Highway 65 leading into town impassable. Strong winds gusted up to 50 mph driving wet snow into drifts with the consistency of cement more than 6 feet high repeatedly blocking exposed sections of local roads.

A fleet of school buses shuttled fans from a number of remote parking areas to the airport where they benefited from the extraordinary efforts of more than 100 volunteers. Battling intermittent sideways sleet, hearty volunteers guided fans from the buses to the main hangar where more volunteers collected tickets, checked passes and welcomed them into the party.

Barron native and "The Voice" runner-up Chris Kroeze pre-heated the standing-room-only crowd of more than 3,200 fans ahead of the Packer's arrival with the first of two concerts. His guitar was virtually smoking following his cover of Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Pride and Joy," much to the delight of his fans.

Kroeze is in the midst of riding his soulful country cords and impressive guitar chops on what looks to be a promising ride to stardom. All of Kroeze's God-given talent was on display on stage Thursday night including his most endearing quality, his downhome Wisconsin humility. The fans loved their own in the hangar Thursday night.

By the time the Packer Tour Bus pulled up there was no doubt who was headlining the night.

Packer CEO Mark Murphy, accompanied by alumni players Scott Wells, Nick Barnett, Aaron Kampman, Earl Dotson, Ryan Grant and Bernardo Harris stepped off the bus and into an ocean of green and gold fans eager to meet their heroes.

The Packer entourage high-fived their way through a gauntlet of cheering fans onto the stage where impromptu emcee Paul Mayer got things started.

"We will clear in excess of $135,000. I dare any other city in the state of Wisconsin to beat our record!"

said Mayer.

Murphy took the mic, introduced the individual players and then began the question and answer session by asking a fan wearing a Viking's jersey in the front row, "How many Super Bowls have the Vikings won?" much to the jeering and cheering of the green and gold army.

The Packer players joined Murphy in answering questions, then tour members started lobbing Packer souvenirs into the crazed crowd.

Following the feeding frenzy, the Packers took up seats behind a row of tables and settled in to sign autographs for more than 700 fans who had paid in advance for the opportunity.

The players spent the next hour-plus shaking hands, sharing hugs, taking selfies and autographing a wide variety of items ranging from balls, helmets and jerseys to any number of different clothing items.

Following the autograph session, the players graciously hung out, shaking more hands, posing for more photos and generally thanking fans before packing up and relinquishing the spotlight back to Kroeze and his band to close out an unforgettable night of memories.

According to Chamber Executive Director Rob Kreibich, the event netted more than $130,000, an all-time Tailgate Tour record, for Grace Place, the Salvation Army's transitional housing program in New Richmond.

"It was an honor to help raise money for Grace Place. Seeing firsthand the support the organization received at the event reaffirmed our choice to work with them. It's a privilege to connect with nonprofits like Grace Place and help further their mission. Our communities are fortunate to have such caring organizations that serve needs so well," said Murphy.

Kreibich thanked the Packer organization and paid tribute to all the volunteers without whose help the show could not have gone on. He thanked the city, the New Richmond Police Department, St. Croix County Sheriff's Department and most of all Airport Director Mike Demulling, Mary Kay Rice and the rest of the airport staff and volunteers for the many hours and effort they put into getting the airport ready to host the city's biggest event ever.

"I can't say enough about the work they did and really all the work done by all the volunteers. None of this would have been possible without them. They deserve a ton of credit. What a great success and what a great story for New Richmond," said Kreibich.