When Lauren (a fellow North Carolinian) heard that I was traveling to Wisconsin for the first time (for my job interview), she insisted that I take a picture of myself in a cheese hat. When I arrived at the Madison airport, I almost immediately saw a gift shop full of cheese hats. Jackpot.
My conversation with the gift shop cashier went as follows:
Me: "Hi. It's my first time in the state of Wisconsin and my friend asked for a photo of me wearing a cheese hat. Would you mind taking my picture?"
Cashier: "Sure, no problem. Why don't you stand next to Bucky the Badger."
Me: "Who is Bucky the Badger?"
Despite my love of anthropomorphism and alliteration, I had never heard of Bucky the Badger. It turns out that Bucky is the official mascot of the University of Wisconsin- Madison. I put on a cheese hat, picked up a cheese football, stood next to a shiny statue of Bucky, and smiled for my first ever photo op in Wisconsin. Here's to you, Lauren:
I later learned that Wisconsin is known as "The Badger State" because its coal miners in the 1800s found shelter in the holes that they dug in the ground, giving them the nickname "badgers." I have observed that Wisconsin nomenclature is often accompanied by the word "badger."