By Greg Echlin
Beyond the Wisconsin borders, pockets of locations around the country draw the loyal fans of the green and gold—the cheese heads, the Packers fans. One such place in Leonardville, Kansas stands out amid the purple support for nearby Kansas State University. In this town of slightly less than 500, Packers fans find sanctuary at Nelson’s Landing.
Situated on Main Street, on the one block considered the ‘downtown’ area of Leonardville, Nelson’s Landing contains the usual elements of a sports bar: big screen TVs, bar space and tables. But, oddly for a restaurant in the heart of Kansas City Chiefs territory, it also displays Green Bay Packers paraphernalia. That’s because the owners of Nelson’s Landing are the parents of Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson.
“Leonardville was kind of in a lull and when we opened this up. A lot of people didn’t think it would go and it’s been able to thrive, which has brought Leonardville back to life,” said Jordy Nelson’s mom, Kim, who runs Nelson’s Landing with her husband, Alan.
When the Nelsons opened the restaurant in 2007, their son was in his senior season at Kansas State. He was drafted by the Packers in 2008, and Nelson’s Landing felt the full effects of green and gold in 2010, when the Packers defeated the Pittsburg Steelers in Super Bowl XLV.
Fans came to Nelson’s Landing to watch the game, and when Nelson caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Aaron Rodgers to help win the championship, the restaurant went wild with support for their hometown player.
“The governor’s office was calling and talking to those who were here, and the TV stations from Topeka were all up here,” said Kim Nelson.
After his star performance in the Super Bowl, Nelson joined Jerry Rice, Deion Branch and Rickey Sanders as the only receivers in Super Bowl history with at least nine catches in that game.
With a Super Bowl ring and an alternate selection to the Pro Bowl last year, Nelson’s achievements have brought some attention to a town where the tallest visible structures are a water tower and a grain elevator.
Fans now come to Nelson’s Landing to delight in Packers spirit.
“We looked it up on the Internet where Jordy went to school,” said Larry Kyle, a native of Neillsville, Wisconsin who stopped at the restaurant with his wife, Mary Sue, while en route to Arizona. “We stopped down there at the convenience store and the lady told us that this was the place to come and see anything about Jordy.”
Nelson’s jersey hangs on the wall for fans to see. Before his career took off in Green Bay, Nelson helped out with handy work around the restaurant. His sister Kelsey, who played basketball at K-State and also has her frame on the wall, works as a part-time waitress when she’s not teaching.
Kim Nelson said the amount of green and gold has increased since 2010.
“It cracks me up. Like today, we had some people walk in and the dad had on a Jordy jersey and his Green Bay hat. The rest of them had either a hat or a shirt on and it wasn’t even game day,” she said.