Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. Today, Wisconsin is on the agenda, nicknamed the Badger State, not for the animal per se, but because early miner settlers either lived in mines or dug homes in the side of hills, like the animal. Let’s find out more:
Motto: “Forward” – I’m more of a backwards kind of guy!
Food: Another nickname for Wisconsin is America’s Dairyland. Some items one would have to try when visiting the state include Cheese Curds, a Butter Burger and an Ice Cream Sundae, since it was invented there. Another dessert that caught my eye was the Kringle (the State Pastry), which is an oval-shaped flaky dough pastry typically filled with fruit/nuts and iced on top.
Drink: America’s Brewery would be another fitting moniker for Wisconsin, as it has been home to a number of major players in the industry, including Schlitz Brewing, Miller Brewing, Pabst Brewing and Blatz Brewing. Beer production and consumption is so important in the state that the TurboTap was invented there, by University of Wisconsin student Matt Younkle.
Site to See: A top attraction in Wisconsin is Noah’s Ark Water Park, the country’s largest water park. Found in Lake Delton, the park features 51 water slides, along with other highlights, including lazy rivers, wave pools and amusement rides. Noah’s Ark uses two million gallons of water each day and its lifeguards have earned the highest safety rating possible.
Street: Today, Road America is a motorsport race course located near Elkhart Lake. However, when racing first gained popularity in the late 1940’s, a series of public streets were used to create the course. Most of this original route, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, can still be driven. It was copied for the now private course, which is used by a number of racing series.
TV Show: Happy Days and spinoff series Laverne & Shirley were both set in Milwaukee. Happy Days ran for 11 seasons and 255 episodes, while Laverne & Shirley enjoyed a run of eight seasons and 178 episodes. The shows shared a universe, which included various guest appearances from characters on either program. Both series were created by industry legend Garry Marshall.
Movie: Bridesmaids, starring Kristen Wiig, takes place in Milwaukee and tells the tale of a woman who is asked to be the maid of honour at her best friend’s wedding, while her life is in financial and romantic unrest. Rounding out the cast is Maya Rudolph as the bride-to-be and Rose Byrne, Melissa McCarthy, Ellie Kemper and Wendi McLendon-Covey as fellow bridesmaids.
Book/Author: Satirical publication The Onion was created by University of Wisconsin students Tim Keck and Christopher Johnson in 1988, originating as a weekly print newspaper in Madison. The Onion is now one of the most recognized satirical news websites in the world, offering humorous views on international, national and local issues.
Fictional Character: Originally intended to be a minor character, Arthur ‘The Fonz’ Fonzarelli became so popular as the personification of cool, that Happy Days moved to focusing on him, rather than the Cunningham family. Played by Henry Winkler, Fonzie is also infamous for helping to create the ‘jump the shark’ idiom. The Fonz has been immortalized in statue form in Downtown Milwaukee.
Fictional City: Point Place was the setting for That 70’s Show. The series, which ran for eight seasons and 200 episodes, centered on a group of teenagers from May 17, 1976 to December 31, 1979, making stars of much of its cast, including Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis. Actor Kurtwood Smith, who played gruff dad Red Forman, was the only cast member actually from Wisconsin.
Actor/Actress: This category was a tough choice, narrowed down to Gene Wilder and Chris Farley. The edge goes to Gene Wilder, star of movies such as Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, as well as his long partnership with Richard Pryor. Maybe things would be different had Chris Farley enjoyed a full career and not tragically died at the age of 33.
Song: While the only reference to the state is the screaming of “Hello Wisconsin” at the end of the track, In the Street by Cheap Trick (the theme song for That 70’s Show) has the ideals I believe Wisconsin would like to be associated with. It’s all about hanging out, listening to loud music and staying out late. The tune was originally created by rock band Big Star and is also known as That 70’s Song.
Band/Musician: Steve Miller, frontman of the Steve Miller Band, was born in Milwaukee. The band, formed in San Francisco in 1966, is known for a string of classic/psychedelic rock hits, such as The Joker, Rock’n Me, Fly Like an Eagle, Take the Money and Run, and Jet Airliner. Miller was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2016.
People: Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright was born in Richland Center. His 70-year career produced more than a thousand structures, including many notable homes across America. Wright built and lived in the Taliesin estate in Spring Green, which is now a museum in his honour, offering tours of the home and grounds. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Animal: Samson the Gorilla was so popular, he was featured on Milwaukee bus passes. Samson was gifted by Pabst Brewing to the Washington Park Zoo in 1950, before being moved to the Milwaukee County Zoo. He was an instant hit with visitors and even had toys made in his likeness. The zoo has a bronze bust of Samson’s head near their gorilla exhibit, as well as a recreated model of the primate.
Invention: Among some other notable inventions, I have to highlight Les Paul and his work in inventing the electric guitar. Known as the ‘Wizard of Waukesha’, Paul enjoyed a career as a jazz, country and blues musician, prior to his guitar building. He also developed a number of recording advancements. For his creations, Paul has a permanent exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Crime: Two of the world’s most notorious serial killers called Wisconsin home, Ed Gein (the Butcher of Plainfield/Plainfield Ghoul) and Jeffrey Dahmer (the Milwaukee Cannibal/Milwaukee Monster). Gein’s crimes inspired characters in films such as Psycho, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and The Silence of the Lambs, while Dahmer murdered and dismembered 17 males over a 13-year period.
Law: In Wisconsin, margarine was once illegal. This lasted for almost 75 years and was done to protect the butter industry. Apparently, a bootleg operation of sorts began in opposition to the law, with people getting margarine from Illinois, risking a maximum fine of $6,000.
Sports Team: Milwaukee has two professional teams with the Brewers (MLB) and Bucks (NBA). Rounding out Wisconsin franchises is the Green Bay Packers (NFL), who play at the famous Lambeau Field and have some of the most unique fans in the sports world, known as Cheeseheads (a term sometimes used to describe Wisconsinites in general), as they wear cheese-shaped foam hats.
Athlete: Speed skater Eric Heiden (born in Madison) owned the 1980 Winter Olympics, winning five gold medals, while setting one world record and four Olympic records. His individual gold medal total would have ranked him third amongst all nations. As a result of his success, Heiden is considered by many to be the greatest speed skater of all-time.
Famous Home: The House on the Rock in Iowa County is quite the attraction, as each room, street, garden and shop is designed differently, all built atop Deer Shelter Rock. Created by architect Alex Jordan Jr., the complex is highlighted by the 3000-window Infinity Room, world’s largest indoor carousel and Japanese Gardens. The site was used in the novel and TV series American Gods.
Urban Legend: The Hodag is a folklore creature inhabiting the city of Rhinelander, where a statue of the beast sits outside the Chamber of Commerce. Reportedly, it can only be killed using chloroform, dynamite and… lemons. The character features in many Paul Bunyan myths and has been used in an episode of Scooby Doo, as well as being listed in J.K. Rowling’s book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
Museum: The Hamburger Hall of Fame can be found in Seymour, which claims to be where the first ever hamburger was served and calls itself ‘Home of the Hamburger’. The Hall of Fame celebrates this culinary delight and also hosts the annual Burger Fest, where in 2001, the world’s largest hamburger ever was made, weighing more than four tons.
Firsts: The first automobile in the U.S. was created by Racine’s Dr. J.W. Carhart. His invention inspired Wisconsin in 1875 to offer a $10,000 reward to any vehicle that could complete a 201-mile course between Green Bay and Madison. Amon seven entries, two vehicles started the race, with one completing the course in 33 hours and 27 minutes. Only half the prize was awarded for the first U.S. auto race.
Company: Harley-Davidson is headquartered in Milwaukee, where it was founded in 1903. The motorcycle manufacturer also has a production plant in the city, as well as the Harley-Davidson Museum, which is a popular tourist destination, with an estimated 300,000 visitors each year. The company has been integral in the establishment of biker culture since its inception.
Events: When the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed in 1854, giving the new territories the right to choose whether to adopt slavery or not, a Wisconsin man named Alvan Bovay hosted a meeting in the city of Ripon. It was there that the basis for the Republican Party was formed, with the group’s main goal being to stop the expansion of slavery.
Miscellaneous: A couple other notable athletes from Wisconsin should be mentioned. Danica Patrick (born in Beloit) broke gender barriers in the racing world, becoming the only woman to win an IndyCar Series race. Also, quarterback Colin Kaepernick (born in Milwaukee) is best known for his anthem protests against racial inequality, which may have resulted in an early end to his career.
Brandy Old Fashioned
- 2 oz Brandy
- 1 Sugar Cube
- Top with Lemon-Lime Soda/Grapefruit Soda/Club Soda
- Splash of Cherry Juice
- Splash of Orange Juice
- Dashes of Angostura Bitters
- Garnish with an Orange Slice and Maraschino Cherry
Thanks to Wisconsin’s drinking culture, there were a number of beverage options available, with the Old Fashioned being an unofficial State Cocktail. It is the drink of choice for a number of fictional characters, including Don Draper (Mad Men) and ‘Hot Lips’ Houlihan (M*A*S*H). In Wisconsin, they prefer Brandy in their recipes, so I’m happy to honour that.