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Wisconsin Dairy News: Unique story behind ‘sunburst chairs’

MADISON (WKOW) — Like an homage to spring, the sunburst chairs crop up on UW Madison’s Memorial Union Terrace to add a pop of color after a long winter. 

The Director of Wisconsin Union UW-Madison, Mark Guthier said "The fact that they kind of go away during the winter and reemerge and there’s a kind of an annual ritual of them coming back out and bringing life back to the terrace and to Madison really is part of what makes them unique!"

The original chairs were made of Hickory and couldn’t withstand Wisconsin’s harsh winter weather conditions. So, the chairs went through several iterations before transforming into the iconic sunburst we’re familiar with today. And, the three symbolic colors are also rooted in tradition.

"The colors were picked to be reminiscent of and recognize the agricultural history of the state, to represent Allis-Chalmers orange tractors and John Deere green tractors and sunshine bright yellow," said Guthier.

The sunburst chairs also mirror the three seasons in Wisconsin when it’s best to farm; spring, summer, and fall! 

Guthier said, "The College of Ag and life sciences is world-renowned and we are proud here at the Union, to partner with them in a variety of ways."

You’ll find Babcock Hall Dairy milk, cheese and ice cream in all Wisconsin Union restaurants, including the Terrace. Another fun fact about the Terrace chairs…

"These are exclusive paint colors for the terrace chairs. We don’t sell the chairs in these colors. We will sell them in red and white; the school colors, but not in these colors," said Guthier

No doubt these chairs are One-of-a-kind! Crafted by Wisco Industries in Oregon, WI, you won’t see the sunburst chairs anywhere else!

Guthier said, "The chair is trademarked so once it became a popular chair our alumni group here at the Union had a trademark. And so nobody else can produce this chair." 

In 2012 a special batch of chairs were made in Mendota Blue to help raise money for the Union’s renovation project. The chairs were only on the Terrace for one season and then were given to the donors who supported the project.  


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