You Know You’re From...Wisconsin Rapids: Country Union Jam

You Know You're From...Wisconsin Rapids
Published: May. 8, 2023 at 9:49 PM CDT
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WISCONSIN RAPIDS, Wis. (WSAW) - When you think of a library, you think of a quiet space, but in the last room on the right at the McMillan Memorial Library in Wisconsin Rapids — quiet time ends.

“I never miss a one,” said LeRoy Ham.

“I love country music,” added Fran Eron.

“We both enjoy it,” Lester and Jean Elmer said.

On the second Wednesday of every month, Country Union Jam fills the quiet space. “Classical and traditional country, traditional bluegrass and gospel,” said Steve Gardner, co-founder of Country Union Jam with his brother Bob Gardner and Bill Loos.

“I’m blessed to be part of a trio that started in 2006 until it morphed into the monthly jam session,” Loos added.

Gardner stated, “We came here to the library in 2012. They were very agreeable to have us and we’ve been here ever since. The more the word got out the more musicians that wanted to come up and join us.”

The jam session is a monthly assignment for 16-year-old, home-schooled sophomore Caleb Holford. He brings his guitars, electric, acoustic, and steel. “It’s kind of a lost instrument now. I’d like to see people play it and bring it back to modern music.”

It’s all unscripted. No one knows what will be played until it’s time to jam. “If you get a song you don’t know, we encourage the folks don’t try to play it. Let it sink in a bit and play along,” said Gardner.

His wife Lisa has been a regular since 2017. “It’s sometimes really emotional for me because I feel like I’m the one that wrote the song on a lot of the songs. I tend to pull the audience in.”

Almost immediately, she pulled Steve in too, playing the strings of his heart. “Yeah, pretty much, yeah,” Steve said with a laugh.

As for Lisa, “I felt the same way.”

It’s a union composed through music.

“Oh yeah, she’s cute, and she can sing. She likes bluegrass,” Steve said as he remembered the first time seeing Lisa.

“We were singing partners before that. It progressed from there,” Lisa added with a laugh.

They’ve been married for four years now. Together, and with the help of others, they’ll continue to share their love of music once a month. “I think it’s a blessing from the lord that we can play music. That we can sing. I feel that he’s asking us to do this,” Steve said.

If you’re interested in checking out the Country Union Jam, you’re in luck. They’ll be playing on Wednesday at 1 p.m. at the McMillan Library.

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