‘Orville’ takes a seat in downtown Valpo
By James D. Wolf Jr. Post-Tribune correspondent September 4, 2012 6:28PM
Sporting a red bow tie, mayor Jon Costas poses for a photo with a statue of Orville Redenbacher following a unveiling ceremony at Valparaiso's Central Park Plaza Tuesday Sept. 4, 2012. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 4, 2012 9:19PM
VALPARAISO — Orville Redenbacher’s likeness now sits on a park bench in Central Park Plaza’s gateway and smiles at the passersby on Lincolnway.
City officials and members of the Redenbacher family unveiled the bronze statue of the famed popcorn developer on Tuesday as part of the week-long lead-up to the 34th annual Popcorn Fest on Saturday.
“He is sure to become the most photographed citizen of Valparaiso,” Mayor Jon Costas told the crowd.
Although Redenbacher is the face of the brand begun by Chester and Son seed company (now Chester Inc.), a plaque also commemorates his partner, Charlie Bowman, who bought the company with him in 1951.
“They put Valparaiso on the map selling extraordinary popcorn with an even more extraordinary name,” Costas said.
Redenbacher’s youngest daughter, Gail Tuminello, said, “They thought this was the right community to start their business and raise their families.”
Popcorn was always Redenbacher’s focus, starting when he was the youngest of six kids and his parents grew it.
“He actually would pop corn and sell it as a kid to make money,” Tuminello, a Valparaiso resident, said. “He didn’t envision doing anything else.”
The bronze statue is a good likeness of her father, she believes, and she had sent copies of all his commercials and photos to sculptor Lou Cella, who also made the Ernie Banks statue at Wrigley Field.
Cella was sorry to see his part end.
“It was just one of the projects where everything seemed to come together on its own. It was fun,” said Cella, whose Rotblatt Amrany Fine Art Studio is in Highwood, Ill.
Tuminello recalled growing up in the three-story apartment building west of Valparaiso City Hall, then the post office,
She said Redenbacher was a hard worker, and when someone fired her as a 13-year-old detasseler at Chester, dad allowed it.
She thinks that Redenbacher would be pleased with the statue.
“As much as he and Charlie had such great ideas, I don’t think they ever had an idea of the growth of Chester or the spinoff (of the popcorn line),” she said. “It’s an amazing tribute. He’d be proud.”
Granddaughter Julie Gallant of Cincinnati agreed he’d be both pleased and surprised, and she also found it amusing.
“When you grow up with someone, you don’t think much of it,” Gallant said.
During the speeches, Chester Inc. CEO and President Peter Peuquet recalled how Redenbacher and Bowman went to Chicago in the 1960s to rebrand Red Bow Popcorn with a marketing firm.
While they spent $13,000 on the firm, it was an intern who suggested naming it for Redenbacher.
Although the Valparaiso Redevelopment Commission provided the initial money for the $62,000 sculpture, private donations repaid the commission for the expense.