Buddy from the block

CNJ Staff Photo: Tony Bullocks A 40-pound block of cheddar cheese is made to look like the image of Buddy Holly Tuesday at the Southwest Cheese Factory.

By Eric Butler: CNJ correspondent

Whether Buddy Holly ever had positive feelings toward the Green Bay Packers is a matter of conjecture. But one thing’s for sure now: Buddy is a cheese head.

Throughout the Clovis Music Festival, a block of cheese carved into the likeness of Holly will be displayed in the entrance of the Marshall Auditorium.

The sculpture is from Sarah Kaufmann, known as “The Cheese Lady” for her works made out of cheddar. Those include a replica of the USS Reagan aircraft carrier, Mickey Mouse, sports stars such as Brett Favre and Mario Andretti and several other celebrities — such as Jay Leno, Matt Lauer and Katie Couric.

Now, she can add Buddy Holly to the list after spending what she called “quality time” with the 1950s singing star in a Syracuse, N.Y., hotel room.

“I spent the night with him. I wanted to make his top-knot bigger and work on his glasses, because those are his biggest symbols,” said Kaufmann, who was in New York for its state fair. “I hope I succeeded. I had two days off and needed to do Buddy in-between gigs, you might say.

“All I kept doing was humming his songs in my head, thinking about when he crashed and how dramatic that was,” she added of Holly, who died in a plane wreck Feb. 3, 1959.

Though the Ohio-based artist was obviously familiar with Holly’s story, she did not know that his hits were recorded in Clovis.

The Buddy Holly cheese head was constructed out of a 40-pound block of cheddar sent to Kaufmann by the Southwest Cheese, which sponsors the music fest.

On Tuesday, Southwest Cheese employees got a chance to see the sculpture before it was taken to a ribbon-cutting for the new Norman and Vi Petty Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum in town.

“Buddy Holly’s music is kind of synonymous with Clovis and so we wanted to be part of what Clovis is known for,” said Brenda Miller, human resources manager at Southwest Cheese. “She (Kaufmann) has done some other carvings for us and she is just a phenomenal artist with a block of cheese.”

Miller added that no good way of permanently preserving the sculpture exists.

“We can’t eat it, because it’s already been carved and sitting out,” she said. “But we’ll probably keep Buddy out for about a month or so. If he stays looking good, we’ll continue to use him for things.”

Degradation of cheese is inevitable, Miller said, but Kaufmann had nothing but praise for the quality of the product that she was able to work with.

As Buddy Holly might say: “Rave On.”

“This was very good. Smooth, consistent, dense — and I know these cheeses right down to the center core. I’ve seen 640-pound blocks from Southwest Cheese and I’ve been down to the center,” Kaufmann said. “They all are consistent and dense and taste great. I never worry when I have one of their blocks.”