Seymour, Wisconsin

Seymour Wisconsin Giant Hamburger Statue

Birthplace of the Hamburger?

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When he was just 15, so the legend goes, Charlie Nagreen invented the hamburger. [1]Forget Hulk Hogan, THIS man is a real American.

The year was 1885, and Charlie was hawking meatballs at the annual fair in Seymour, Wisconsin. Sales were underwhelming. Then he had a stroke of genius: What if he flattened his meatballs and stuck them between two slices of bread, making them easier for customers to carry? [2]I feel like I had this same eureka moment once in college when I was trying to make a sandwich out of stuff in the freezer.

The town of Seymour takes great pride in that story, calling itself The Home of the Hamburger.

Some will disagree with this claim, but we couldn’t pass up a chance to pay our respects to one of Fred’s favorite foods, so we planned a quick stop on a day trip that also included visits to Green Bay and Appleton. (Seymour is about 30 minutes from either town.) Alas, the Seymour Community Museum, [3]Dear Seymour, in our video, we said you had 500-1,000 residents. We’ve since learned it’s more than 3,000. We’re very sorry. which doubles as the Hamburger Hall of Fame, was closed. And while we’d hoped to eat a hamburger in Seymour, we couldn’t find a local burger joint. 

We did manage a quick beer, which will surprise exactly none of our regular readers.

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Seymour Wisconsin Giant Hamburger Charlie Statue

Hamburger Charlie, as he became known, traveled the Wisconsin summer fair circuit for the next 66 years (the first 20 or so of those by horse and wagon, according to this interview with one of his former employees). He created a little promotional chant that went like this: 

Hamburger, hamburger, hamburger hot,

With an onion in the middle and a pickle on top, 

Makes your lips go flippity flop,

Come on over, try an order,

Fried in butter, listen to it sputter. [4]Didn’t Tupac Shakur remake this?

The Charlie Grill Sign Seymour Wisconsin

Charlie’s story had largely been forgotten until 1989, when the people of Seymour organized the now-annual Burger Fest and made a 5,445-pound hamburger on this grill. In 2001, Seymour built an even bigger burger—this one 20×20 and weighing in at over 8,200 pounds—though it apparently lacked the right specifications to qualify for a Guinness World Book record.

Burger Fest Giant Burger Seymour Wisconsin
Photo Credit: William Harter

Burger Fest takes place every August (the 2021 fest is scheduled for Aug. 14), drawing thousands to town for a parade, classic car show, hot air balloon ascensions, and, of course, a burger-eating contest. You also can have a taste of the giant burger that organizers grill each year, though it weighs “only” about 200 pounds.

Ketchup Slide Burger Days Seymour Wisconsin
Photo Credit: William Harter

And while it probably pains our friends at the National Mustard Museum down in Middleton, Burger Fest also features a ketchup slide. You can don your least-loved outfit and throw yourself down a giant Slip ’n’ Slide slathered in ketchup and water. According to the most recent news we could find, the best slide on record is 234 feet, 8 inches. (How is that possible?)

Seymour Wisconsin Rail Car

Final Note: If you appreciate old railroad history, you’ll love the little depot and train car right across the street from the giant grill.

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