Fond du Lac's 'Frozen Tundra Man' Jeff Kahlow stars in Wisconsin Lottery commercial
FOND DU LAC - That crazy Packer fan who makes the foam hats — the famed "Frozen Tundra Man" from Fond du Lac — is at it again.
This time Jeff Kahlow, creator of Big Guy Hats, is the star of a Wisconsin Lottery commercial promoting new Packers scratch tickets. As a grand prize, football fans get a chance to enter a drawing to win club seat season tickets for 2020-21 and 2021-22 home games.
The commercial, set to air through Sept. 1 throughout the state, features Kahlow in his workshop carving out some new headgear, and later — at Lambeau Field in Green Bay — decked out in full Frozen Tundra Man regalia.
Kahlow's lightweight, wearable hats made from foam have made their way to celebrities like Harrison Ford, former president George W. Bush, Ted Nugent, Larry the Cable Guy, Alice Cooper, Brett Favre, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney.
Four hats have been inducted into the Green Bay Packer Hall of Fame, but it was Kahlow's “ultimate fan” outfit that caught the Wisconsin Lottery’s eye.
“I am actually known for wearing the stadium on my head, with icicles hanging down,” he said.
Hoffman York, an advertising agency from Milwaukee, first contacted Kahlow and asked him if he’d like to be in a commercial for the Lottery’s $5 “Frozen Tundra Tripler” ticket. They were looking for someone who was a season ticket holder and could epitomize a Green Bay Packers fan.
“Who better to showcase this than one of the most recognizable Packers season ticket holders,” said the Lottery’s Beth Pahnke.
Kahlow set to work creating a complete new outfit using items from the Packers Pro Shop. The Lottery asked to see various head prototypes so Kahlow spent weeks fashioning options, like a wheel of cheese and a chunk of turf football field with two goalposts.
“In the end they went with the original tundra head so I made another stadium hat all iced up,” he said.
A film crew of about 40 gathered at Kahlow’s Fond du Lac hobby farm to get shots of the artist at work carving foam, sewing material, welding, using glitter and a hot glue gun. They had also filmed him at the Joann Fabrics store in Fond du Lac, purchasing supplies. Unfortunately, that part ended up on the cutting room floor.
“I felt bad about that, because they opened up the store for us at 3 a.m. and went out of their way, but I guess that’s the nature of the business,” he said.
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The Kahlow family, including his wife Sandra and four kids, were put up at Lodge Kohler in Green Bay during filming at Lambeau Field. By 5 a.m. he was at the stadium, dressed in full gear.
“It was mid-July and 91 degree outside and I was in my tundra outfit with about 30 fill-in people behind me,” Kahlow said. “I was so hot it felt like someone was pouring water down my back."
Still, he said, it was loads of fun.
Employed at Elkay Interior Systems in Fond du Lac, Kahlow carved his first hat in 1985, working out of his basement. He inherited his artistic side from his mother, he said, who was always painting and drawing.
“I never thought I would get into art but everything just somehow fell into place,” he said.
For years, when the family lived in a house near downtown, Kahlow would fashion foam monsters and ghouls and gravestones on Halloween, just for fun. It drew large crowds and word of his talent spread.
“We moved in 1995 and that’s when I went into the head gear in a big way,” he said. “I just wanted to keep creating.”
Dan Small, host of Milwaukee Public Television's “Outdoor Wisconsin,” was the first celebrity Kahlow made a hat for. Next came Ted Nugent, who he heard was playing at the Fond du Lac County Fair. He gave the singer a foam deer hat. Nugent wore it on stage.
“He asked me if I could mass produce them, but I don’t work that way," Kahlow said. "Ted and I have been friends for 25 years now. He calls me the ‘crazy foam hat dog."
Tour managers passed his name around through word of mouth, he said. That opened the door to creating hats for Toby Keith, Willie Nelson and Jay Leno.
Kahlow says his most expensive hat to date sold for $500. It was an V-8 engine block, complete with headers, a carburetor and value covers.
“I just got off the phone with a guy who wants a big Army tank. "They just keep coming and I am already booked up until the end of the year,” he said.
The commercial will air throughout the year during various sporting events, he said.
"We think the ad turned out great, but furthermore we are so impressed with Jeff and his amazing talent," said Lottery director Cindy Polzin. "It an honor to work with him."
Kahlow says as long as he is making people happy, and they appreciate his work, that’s all that matters.
“I never really had a goal. All these unexpected things just happened along my crazy journey," he said.
This is the 10th year Wisconsin Lottery and the Green Bay Packers have teamed up to offer specialty tickets. Last year’s winner of the season tickets prize package was David Cauffman of Prairie De Sac.
Along with the Frozen Tundra Tripler, this year’s Packers scratch game offerings include a $1 Packers Cash ticket and a $10 Green Bay Packers ticket.
Kahlow’s work can be viewed at bigguyhats.com.
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