We may not have movie stars like California, oranges like Florida or corn like Iowa, but Wisconsin has a long list of excellent stuff we've given to the rest of the world. Here are the top 13 things that carry the "Made in Wisconsin" tag.
1. Cheese – Any list for our state has to start with cheese. Over 600 cheesemakers produce over 2.8 billion pounds of cheese each year. That’s a quarter of all the production in the country. Plus, we win most of the prizes in every cheese contest held around the world. And Wisconsin is the only place in the country where limburger cheese is made. It’s not for everyone, but put a thin slice on top of Usinger’s liver sausage and add a slice of raw onion between two pieces of caraway rye and you have one heck of a sandwich. It’s best eaten leaning over your kitchen sink.
2. Kringle – It comes from Denmark, but the American monopoly is in Racine, a center of Danish culture. Thirty-two layers of flaky dough are shaped into an oval and then filled with fruit, nut or other flavors. It makes a fantastic gift and is guaranteed to get a "holy cow" response when you send one to somebody in, say, Arizona. Side note: The Nordic Distillery in Middleton makes a kringle liqueur, created out of Wisconsin cream, rum, sugar and kringle flavoring. I had a shot in Cross Plains recently. Amazing!
3. Yachts – Don’t laugh. Rich people from around the world, from sheiks to barons of industry, know that we build wonderfully luxurious yachts. Palmer Johnson, Carver, Burger and KCS International build the watercraft from stem to stern, complete with hand-crafted fine wood details throughout the state rooms and cabins. Some of these are a sight to behold. I’ve never been on a yacht, but it looks like a lot of fun.
4. Cranberries – How in the world could we ever have Thanksgiving without cranberries? We are the largest cranberry producer by far, harvesting almost five billion bushels. That is enough for approximately 62.5 million turkey dinners (I made that up, but it seems about right).
5. Bicycles – Trek, the Waterloo based company, makes a lot of bikes, with over 1,700 retailers around the world. Not only do they make great bikes, but there is a certain cachet to having a Trek. In some Asian markets, Trek bikes are almost a status symbol.
6. Music – Les Paul, Glenn Yarbrough, Brian Ritchie, Bunny Berigan, Jerry Harrison, Woody Herman, Liberace, Steve Miller, Leonard Sorkin, Daryl Stuermer, Butch Vig and Danny Gokey (I know, I know). All big time contributors.
7. Baseball and Bratwurst – In 1954, Bill Sperling, the assistant concession manager at Milwaukee County Stadium, was in his office when a local German butcher walked in and put a box of brats on his desk. Sperling said he’d try them. On the first day, they sold one. On the second day, they sold one. On the third day, they got a new bun and sold all six they cooked. The rest is history. Now, there apparently is not a single ballpark in the major leagues where you can’t buy a brat.
8. Yellow foam dreck – Cheeseheads, made by Foamation, Inc., are all over the world. Shame on us. You can buy just about anything – from a bowtie to a belt buckle to earrings to a hat shaped like a cob of corn – in fake cheese foam. I am on a personal, one-man campaign, to get rid of the cheesehead moniker for people from Wisconsin. I understand this campaign has no chance of success.
9. Show business – Willem Dafoe, Chris Farley, Frederic March, Tyne Daly, Chris Noth, Mark Ruffalo, Uta Hagen, Tony Shaloub, Orson Welles, Bradley Whitford, Kato Kaelin (I know, I know).
10. Flags – Eder Flag Manufacturing Co., in Oak Creek is by far the largest flag making company in the United States. It was founded over a century ago and has had steady, impressive growth. They have over 20,000 products, which means they have a flag for just about anything you can think of – and some you’ve never thought of.
11. The Water Council – The mission of Milwaukee’s Water Council is to establish the Milwaukee region as the World Water Hub for water research, economic development and education. The council recently signed a significant deal with JP Morgan Chase and Co., to identify and help develop entrepreneurs who are developing water technologies. This thing may well put Milwaukee on the map bigger than anything else we’ve ever done.
12. Beef jerky – Jack Link's Beef Jerky was founded in 1987 in Minong, and the company headquarters sits in Washburn County just west of the Chequamegon Forest in northern Wisconsin. Combined with its New Glarus location, Jack Link's Beef Jerky employs over 900 people in the state alone and almost 3,000 worldwide. Jack Link's is the number one meat snack manufacturer in North America, the fastest growing meat snack manufacturer in the world and sells more than 100 different meat snack products in more than 40 countries.
13. Horseradish – Ellis Huntsinger founded Huntsinger Farms, Inc. and its subsidiary Silver Spring Foods, Inc. in Eau Claire in 1929. Today, Silver Spring horseradish is grown on 9,000 acres in Wisconsin and Minnesota farmland, and is the No. 1 retail brand in the United States.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.