AUDUBON, Iowa | Albert the Bull and his town, Audubon, have a stake -- or steak, in this case -- in Super Bowl Sunday.
A Cenex commercial, slated to air during the third quarter of the big game, shines a light on the town and the "Super Bull" who has welcomed visitors to the Audubon County seat since his dedication on Oct. 31, 1964, some 26 months before Super Bowl I.
Super Bull and Super Bowl. Get it?
Cenex, which has a gas station/convenience store in Audubon, had the spot filmed in town over a two-day period in early November. Producers returned to Audubon last Saturday to offer locals a sneak peak at the piece during the annual Chamber of Commerce banquet.
"The guys showing the commercial had to go out and buy a TV because the TV we had wouldn't handle this deal," said Sam Kauffman, lifelong Audubon resident. "So, they bought a 60-inch TV for $800 just to show us this."
Once the ad and a five-minute documentary they shot to highlight Audubon finished, Cenex marketing pros donated the TV, which was auctioned as a fundraiser for the betterment of the community. A 500-gallon Cenex fuel card, also donated, was then auctioned as well, Kauffman reported.
I featured Kauffman in a May 2003 Journal story as I traveled the state with former Des Moines Register columnist Chuck Offenburger, who frequently chronicled Kauffman at Sam's Barber Shop on the corner of Broadway and Washington streets downtown.
Kauffman, mayor here for 22 years, was one of dozens of people who helped construct Albert the Bull in 1963-64, volunteering for the Audubon Junior Chamber of Commerce. The 30-ton concrete statute, which stands 28 feet tall, boasts of a 15-foot span between his horns. This massive model Hereford is, ahem, said to be anatomically correct, thanks to assistance provided at the time of his construction by the American Hereford Association.
"Albert's got a lot of beer cans in him," Kauffman said while recalling the days some 108 local volunteers banded together for the task. "And some of them are mine!"
Albert was named for Albert Kruse, an Audubon banker who originated the town's Operation T-Bone whereupon cattle feeders and business leaders traveled by train -- with their livestock -- to Chicago to rub elbows with buyers, cementing relationships that kept the local beef industry thriving.
Audubon, like most rural Midwest communities, has seen its population plummet since then, one residual of expanding farms and shrinking families. Nine barbers toiled in this town -- 15 served Audubon County -- when Kauffman began his career here more than six decades ago. Now, he said he's the only one.
"The town is hanging in there, but there's been a real downsizing," said Kauffman, 82. "We're down 1,000 people from my childhood."
Still, he said the camera crew succeeded in capturing vignettes showing Audubon and its 2,176 residents at their best, cheering on the Audubon High School Wheelers in 8-man football, passing one another with a wave in the street, and gathering around their claim to fame, the World's Largest Bull.
"The community is very excited," said Laurie Gilbert, administrator for the Audubon County Economic Development organization. She explained she'll attempt to capitalize on the attention today by distributing additional information about the town and county, including recent highlights such as the new rec center, the physical retooling of the old theater (it opens in a couple of months) and a new coffee shop.
"We also have a new 30-room hotel, a restaurant and bar and a huge Waspy's Truck Stop," said Gilbert, alluding to a complex slated to open this summer south of town on Highway 71. "We've got some great things happening!'
Call them "super" developments for a western Iowa city that basks in the spotlight today.