Every town has a tradition that may sound incredibly bizarre to an unknowing outsider. In my hometown of Hershey, Pa., for example, we have the giant Hershey’s Kiss that’s raised every New Year’s Eve. For the entire state of Wisconsin, it’s the Cheesehead.
Created by Ralph Bruno in 1987, the Cheesehead was born out of some spare polyurethane foam from his mother’s sofa and a turkey slicer. A splash of yellow-orange paint and a few craters later, Bruno crafted the cheddar-hued hat now ubiquitous across the Badger State.
The term “Cheesehead” reportedly came about a couple of years earlier. In 1985, after the Chicago Bears became Super Bowl champs, Bears fans started mocking their long-time rivals, the Green Bay Packers, branding its fans “Cheeseheads.” Given that Wisconsin prides itself on being America’s Dairyland, Wisconsinites (Packers fans or not) unsurprisingly embraced the term, taking it from insulting to endearing.
Fast forward a couple of years, and Bruno debuted his cheesy fashion statement at a Milwaukee Brewers game (fittingly, they were playing against another Chicago team, the White Sox). The Cheesehead attracted a few admirers, but it garnered major attention when a local paper published a photo of then-Brewers outfielder Rick Manning sporting it. With all the newfound interest, Bruno decided to manufacture Cheeseheads full-time and started selling them at games. The rest is history.
Bruno’s Original Cheesehead Factory has since expanded to include other cheese-shaped goods, everything from a hole-riddled “dagger,” to a beach towel, to a graduation cap. Devotees of the Cheesehead have spread far beyond Wisconsin, and Bruno’s foam creations have been delivered to all 50 states as well as 30 countries to cheese lovers, third-generation Packers fans, and everyone in between.
Feature Photo Credit: tyle r/Flickr.com