Dela­van – Not to Be Con­fused With De­lafield

A cir­cus town with a cookie jar mu­seum. So worth vis­it­ing!

Milwaukee Magazine - - Special Advertising Section - BY JOHN MC­GIVERN

We left the Mil­wau­kee PBS stu­dios on that gor­geous July 2016 morn­ing to make our way to Dela­van. Five min­utes later, Justin, our pho­tog­ra­pher and crew-van driver, was on I-43 south driv­ing to­ward Beloit. I in­formed Justin that Dela­van is off I-94 on the way to Madi­son. Justin said he was glad I was sit­ting in the back seat be­cause if I were be­hind the wheel we would have ended up in De­lafield, not the com­mu­nity on our sched­ule. Yikes…

I had never been to Dela­van, a burg of about 8,500 peo­ple, 13 miles from Lake Geneva, in Wal­worth County. We met John Gurda, our his­to­rian, in down­town Dela­van, in front of the large gi­raffe and next to the wa­ter tower. He told me that Dela­van be­gan as a tem­per­ance colony in 1836 and was named af­ter Ed­ward Dela­van, a ma­jor player in the na­tional pro­hi­bi­tion move­ment. Dela­van re­mained dry for only nine years be­cause, as John put it, “This is Wis­con­sin, af­ter all!” He also ex­plained that the huge gi­raffe in the park is a re­minder of the city’s cir­cus his­tory. In the late 1800s, Dela­van was the win­ter home of two dozen cir­cus com­pa­nies. Be­fore the Rin­gling Broth­ers put Bara­boo on the map, Dela­van was cir­cus cen­tral, and its ceme­ter­ies are the rest­ing places of about 150 cir­cus per­form­ers.

I can’t tell you how dis­ap­pointed I was to learn that we weren’t able to get in­side the An­des Can­dies op­er­a­tion. It turns out the en­tire plant shuts down for two weeks of sum­mer va­ca­tion, and our shoot­ing sched­ule put us in Dela­van right in the mid­dle of their break. Thank­fully, they opened their lobby and filled a ta­ble with all of the An­des prod­ucts we’ve come to know and love. My fa­vorite is the classic, shiny, green-wrapped choco­late with that thin mid­dle layer of mint. Not only did they send me home with the best all-in­clu­sive An­des sam­pler pack­age ever, but they al­lowed me to drive their pro­mo­tional, minia­ture semi truck (with a go-kart en­gine), built for the an­nual Dela­van Pa­rade. This An­des-filled minia­ture 18-wheeler was the best!

We spent a few hours in­side the Con­ti­nen­tal Plas­tic Cor­po­ra­tion. This is the home of all things plas­tic that go into an­i­mal breed­ing. They make plas­tic tubes (looked like drink­ing straws to me) for breed­ing all sizes of poul­try, from chick­ens to tur­keys. I watched the plas­tic gloves used to breed cows come off the line. These three-foot-long gloves, one of Con­ti­nen­tal Plas­tic’s most in-de­mand items, cover from hand to shoul­der. When I asked Becky Wolf, CEO of Con­ti­nen­tal Plas­tic, why they needed such a long glove, she paused, gave me a look and said, “Think about it, John,” which was a kind way of say­ing, “You’re an id­iot.”

Down­town, an orig­i­nal brick street cov­ers three blocks. These bricks were laid in 1913 and pre­serve a his­tor­i­cal look to this beau­ti­ful, well-main­tained main street. In June 2015, Wall­dog artists came to town and painted 18 Wall­dog mu­rals on the sides of build­ings all over down­town. They tell the his­toric sto­ries of Dela­van.

I was not dis­ap­pointed when I walked into Re­mem­ber When, a large store filled with trea­sures. Mother-and-daugh­ter busi­ness part­ners Karen and Lori Wut­tke have been in this lo­ca­tion for 19 years. They were most ex­cited to get me up­stairs to the cookie jar mu­seum. They have a cookie jar mu­seum. Yep. A mu­seum of cookie jars… WHAT? Never have I been to

or even con­sid­ered the fact that there is a mu­seum ded­i­cated to the cookie jar. And af­ter my visit I can only say, why not? This place is amaz­ing. I found our child­hood cookie jar, which was a cookie-house model that was filled with bro­ken wind­mill cook­ies made by Johnston Cookie Com­pany. I found the happy-look­ing-lady-cow cookie jar my grandma had on her kitchen counter that was al­ways filled with home­made oat­meal and jelly-cen­tered sugar cook­ies. The only thing that was dis­ap­point­ing was that there was not one cookie to be found in the mu­seum. Hun­dreds of cookie jars and not one cookie… TOR­TURE is what that’s called!

Right down the street from the an­tique store is a depart­ment store, Bradley’s. It opened 164 years ago and is owned by

Lois Stritt. She calls this store her “happy place” and con­sid­ers her cus­tomers her good friends. Bradley’s car­ries on a tra­di­tion of ser­vice started in the 1800s, and Lois and her staff make this a unique des­ti­na­tion shop­ping ex­pe­ri­ence.

Dela­van’s pop­u­la­tion is roughly a quar­ter Latino, with some great Latino busi­nesses. Across the street from Bradley’s is Mi Lindo Gua­na­ju­ato, a Mex­i­can gro­cery store, vegetable stand, meat mar­ket and restau­rant. The Martinez fam­ily opened it up in 2008 and Raul Martinez Jr. gave us a tour. It ended with one of the best chorizo bur­ri­tos I’ve ever eaten and some de­li­cious carne asada tacos. Raul’s mom pre­pares and makes the in­gre­di­ents, and his broth­ers cook be­hind the line.

We could not visit Dela­van with­out eat­ing at Her­nan­dez El Sarape Res­tau­rante, open for the last 37 years. Rafael Her­nan­dez is the se­cond gen­er­a­tion to op­er­ate this suc­cess­ful restau­rant and cater­ing busi­ness. Rafael is a char­ac­ter who seemed to re­ally en­joy be­ing in front of the cam­era. He loved talk­ing right to the lens and thought we were do­ing the en­tire episode on him and his restau­rant. He was very gen­er­ous with his time and fed us till we couldn’t eat an­other bite. He also wanted us to do a few shots of his fa­vorite tequila and taste ev­ery mar­garita known to man.

Lake Lawn Re­sort sits on 250 acres along­side two miles of Dela­van Lake shore­line. We had the op­por­tu­nity not only to take a tour of the re­sort but also to get on a boat and take in Dela­van Lake.

Dela­van has been called the poor man’s Lake Geneva, but cer­tainly not by me! This com­mu­nity has its own feel and its own iden­tity and stands tall as one of our great, small Wis­con­sin com­mu­ni­ties. I can’t wait to visit Dela­van again.

Lois Stritt of

Bradley’s

Down­town Dela­van

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