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TOM DUFFEY AND HOW SEYMOUR BECAME 'THE HOME OF THE HAMBURGER'

TOM DUFFEY AND HOW SEYMOUR BECAME 'THE HOME OF THE HAMBURGER'An interview with Tom Duffey on how Seymour became the "Home of the Hamburger"

Tom Duffey played an integral role in the early years (1988-89) gathering information and organizing meetings that led to Seymour being identified as the birthplace of the hamburger. The following interview was conducted by Bill Collar on October 16, 2012. A recording of the interview is available to the public on the Fair Kiosk at the museum. Burger Fest has become an successful annual event thanks to dedicated volunteers who make it happen.


How did Seymour become known as "The Home of the Hamburger?"

It all started with a man named David Muench in 1988. He was the Economic Development Agent for the Outagamie County Extension. He came to Seymour and suggested we have a brainstorming session to determine what could be done to improve the economic climate in Seymour. About 60 people attended the session that was held at the municipal building. After much discussion it was mentioned that the first hamburger was made in 1885 at the fair in Seymour. Muench picked up on that and proposed that Seymour should be known as "The Home of the Hamburger."

Who was at that meeting?

A wide variety of people from Seymour attended. Numerous businesses and local organizations were represented along with the Seymour School District. Dick Tepp organized the brainstorming session. A committee was formed to follow up onthe hamburger theme. It is difficult to remember everyone but I do recall Shirley Mielke, Vivian and Joe Treml, Dick Tepp, T.J. Landwehr, Pat Krohlow, Bill Collar and myself. The group decided to have a festival to celebrate the birth of the burger in Seymour. Someone on the committee got on the Internet and discovered that the world record for the largest hamburger was 3,500 pounds. It was held by Cape Coral, Florida.

How did you verify that the first hamburger was made in Seymour?

We contacted Charlie Nagreen's daughter, Violet Gauerke. She was enthused about the idea and gave the committee much information about her father. This included newspaper articles and numerous artifacts. These objects are on display at the Seymour Community Museum.
She told how Charlie was selling meatballs at the first fair in 1885 and when sales were slow he flattened them into a pattie and put them between two pieces of bread. He created a portable sandwich that people could take with them as they explored the fairgrounds. He returned to the fair for 66 years and developed quite a reputation as "Hamburger Charlie".

What was the first Burger Fest like?

The festival was held at the fairgrounds and the major attraction was the world's largest hamburger that turned out to be 5,520 pounds. Steve Mielke and a number of others designed and built a huge "Charlie Grill" capable of handling the record setting burger. Joe Sauer posed for a great photo when he was suspended by a crane and put the final seasonings on the big burger. Roger Eick and his crew were in charge of pulling the cover off the grill. An estimated 13,000 people were present. The burger was 21 feet in diameter. It was cut up and served with the help of many community volunteers. We also had a number of unusual events like the ketchup slide, a burger eating contest and of course, music.

Was this a community event?

Absolutely, almost every organization in the community participated. We had church groups, fraternal organizations, scouts and many different clubs. At one time we kept the hours that each group worked and a certain amount was paid back.

I understand that each year the festival has a theme. How did that start?

Pat Krohlow had a very creative mind and he came up with many crazy, fun ideas. He was in marketing with a Green Bay TV station and was responsible for getting us national attention. For example, we had the wedding of Bunard and Hamburger Pattie. After that we had the Birth of the Baby Burgers and many fun themes. At one time we had drum and bugle corps competitions and in more recent years wonderful hot air balloon ascensions.

Why did you choose to get involved with the Home of the Hamburger movement?

I grew up in Seymour and lived here all my life. For ten years my wife Ann and I owned the local paper. We take a lot of pride in Seymour and believed the hamburger theme would help put us on the map. I care about my community and want to see it prosper. Jeffery Tennyson was a collector of hamburger items and he wrote a book about the burger. We invited him to Seymour and made him parade marshal. That was covered by national television. Since then we have had the History Channel, Food Channel and the Travel Channel feature programs about Seymour. We also have had TV crews visit us from Germany, South Korea and England.

Any last comments about Seymour and the burger?

We have to give thanks to Seymour native Carl Kuehne and his company, Green Bay Dressed Beef. Carl always supported the festival and his company supplied all the hamburger at no cost. Several other communities have claimed to be where the burger originated. Hamburg, New York; New Haven, Connecticut; and Athens, Texas have made claims. A number of years back Akron, Ohio (and relatives of the people with the Hamburg claim) invited representatives of all the cities to appear before the "Burger Commission" to determine the true home of the hamburger. The program was on the Internet followed by voting. Following an overwhelming vote for Seymour an Akron newspaper complained that "Wisconsin people knew how to vote and voted often."


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