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Blow out the candles! Birth of the burger celebrated in Hamburg

Add the birth of the hamburger sandwich to the never-ending list of things granted their very own day.

"National Birth of the Burger Day" is being coined by organizers of the Erie County Fair, who celebrated the inaugural one Monday at the fairgrounds in Hamburg while blowing out candles on an oversize ground beef patty.

Why Hamburg?

Because fair organizers and others in the area claim the first hamburger was made there during the 1885 Erie County Fair.

Hamburg touts its apparent connection to the origin of the hamburger through its popular Burgerfest held every summer.

There's also a renewed push to paint the top of the town's rusty blue water tower, which many see as being shaped like a hamburger, to look like the meat and bun. There was a push to do the same thing in 1993, but the proposal flamed out.

According to the Erie County Agricultural Society, the story of how the hamburger was created goes something like this: brothers Frank and Charles Menches came from Canton, Ohio, to be food vendors at the Erie County Fair 132 years ago. The Menches' signature dish was pork sausage sandwiches. At some point during the fair, they ran out.

The Ohioans had a local supplier, a butcher in Hamburg named Andrew Stein, but he argued against butchering more hogs because of unseasonable late summer heat. Instead, he thought the brothers should try ground beef.

They agreed, but didn't like what they cooked up at first, so they added ingredients like coffee and brown sugar to the beef. Those first burgers were served with ketchup and sliced onions.

How did fair organizers settle on the date to celebrate the hamburger's birth?

The 1885 Erie County Fair ran from Sept. 16 to 18. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the fair was held later in the year than it is today in order to commemorate the annual harvest.

Back in the early 1990s, the proposal to paint the tower like a burger failed to get enough support of town board members. The town supervisor at the time, John A. Michalek, voted against it, saying he didn't want the hamburger to become a symbol for his town.

Chris Hannotte Luly, the Hamburg resident who was behind the latest petition drive and, says she presented a petition to the town board on Sept. 11 with more than 2,000 signatures and letters of support from Visit Buffalo Niagara, the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Buffalo.

Hannotte Luly said she's awaiting word about whether a resolution will be considered at the board's meeting on Sept. 25. The work does not require tax dollars to complete, and will be covered by fundraising, corporate donations and grants, she said.

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Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Hamburg butcher Andrew Stein.

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