Valparaiso, Indiana: Orville Redenbacher, King of Popcorn

Orville Redenbacher, with his bow tie, wavy hair, toothy grin, and thick glasses, was a TV popcorn commercial celebrity and a real farmer. Valparaiso was his company's home town, and the city provides a bronze statue in his honor, sitting on a park bench.
63 Lafayette St., Valparaiso, IN
The statue sits beneath the gateway into Lincoln Park, on the south side of W. Lincolnway/Hwy 130 just east of Lafayette St.
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Orville Redenbacher statue. Orville Redenbacher, King of Popcorn

Orville Redenbacher had already made a fortune in fertilizer when he settled in Valparaiso to build a popcorn empire. He tested thousands of hybrids before perfecting "gourmet popping corn" -- an upscale version of a formally humble food -- and then became a celebrity by pitching it on TV commercials. A lot of folks didn't believe that he was real, but he was.

Orville died in 1995, in the whirlpool tub of his Colorado condo, not in the leafy biome of a Valparaiso corn field. The city never forgot him, and in 2012 it commissioned artist Lou Cella to create a bronze, life-size Orville with his familiar bow tie, wavy hair, toothy grin, and thick glasses. The statue was placed at the entrance to the city's downtown park, and sits on its own bronze bench to encourage visitors to pose for photos -- a friendly approach also used in statues of America's other living food icon, Colonel Sanders.

Paradoxically, Orville's folksy image is owned by corporate giant ConAgra Foods, which forbid Valparaiso from including any references to popcorn in the statue.

[ Team, 09/09/2012]

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December 22, 2014

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