St. Francis man to be recognized for creating cheesehead

CREATED Mar. 5, 2012 - UPDATED: Mar. 5, 2012

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  • Jesse Ritka reports Video by wtmj.com

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ST. FRANCIS - 25 years ago Ralph Bruno never thought he'd be the brains beneath the chuck of cheese that would sweep the state as well as the nation.

From footballs to top hats, the company that churns out the cheesy foam creations has certainly made a name for itself.

And that's more than obvious Representative Christine Sinicki of Milwaukee tells TODAY'S TMJ4's Jesse Ritka, "What's more Wisconsin than wearing a cheesehead on your head?"

That wasn't the case more than two decades ago when Ralph Bruno made the first cheesehead almost as a joke.  He was headed to County Stadium to a Brewers game with a group of Chicago fans when he  put on a home-made cheesehead.

"I was reupholstering my mom's couch at the time and I had a piece of foam rubber, so I was going to a game with a bunch of friends, they've been calling us cheeseheads forever so I'm like here I go," says Bruno.

The triangle shaped cheese hat with burnt holes gathered such a good reaction that Ralph Bruno quit his pattern making job in 1987, dedicating the next quarter of a century to creating and spreading the cheesehead spirit.

"After 25 years, it's still relevant, it's really hard to explain, and I'm just really proud," Bruno remarked.  And Wisconsin lawmakers are going to honor him and his company Foamation on Tuesday.

"As a legislator, part of my job is to promote and support my local small businesses.  I think this is a great way to honor a company that started out in his mother's basement basically, he ripped apart his mother's couch to create the cheesehead and really it's become a world-wide sensation," states Rep. Sinicki.

So from the basement to the big time, Foamation creations are now sold in all 50 states and more than 30 countries, but Bruno says he's just lucky he lives in Wisconsin.

"The success of the hat is really because of the people that wear it, it's got nothing to do with me, it's just the element that really turns us Wisconsinites into what we are; we're outgoing people and we're proud to be from Wisconsin," contends Bruno.  And it all started with a simple taunt from a few Chicago fans.  Foamation is also coming out with a cheesehead book that should be released in the next month.