This roadside attraction is a home run. It’s big. It’s fiberglass. It’s repurposed. And it’s wonderful. Meet the Happy Chef Umpire in Ryan, Iowa.
Happy Chef was a restaurant chain founded in 1963. It was then that the Frederick Brothers, — Sal, Bob, Bill and Tom — opened the first location on US HWY 169 in Mankato, Minnesota. The diner chain grew and, at one time, there were 56 Happy Chef locations across 7 states.
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Happy Chef was most known for two things: delicious diner fare and the giant fiberglass Happy Chef that greeted customers out front. Promoted as the “world’s largest talking chef” these 18-foot tall statues wore chefs hats, held a spoon high in the air. And would tell jokes on demand at the push of a button.
Sadly, only one of these fiberglass giants remains at an actual Happy Chef location, the original spot, today. But, not-so-sadly, a handful of the Happy Chef mascots have survived and thrived, being painted and repurposed in a variety of ways.
And that brings us back to Ryan, Iowa’s giant umpire, a repurposed Happy Chef who retired from his former life in Cedar Rapids to watch over a softball field, traded his chef hat for a wire face mask, and dropped his wooden spoon to push out his thumb in a gesture that can only mean, “you’re out!”
But while he might be “out” at his former restaurant career, his new career just might be a grand slam.
Happy Chef Umpire
Address: 480 Main St, Ryan, IA 52330
Cost: Free to See
Hours: Always Visible