This September, tourists and locals flocked to Monroe, Wisconsin, to attend one of the nation’s oldest and most venerable celebrations of cheese—Green County Cheese Days. A biennial event held the third week of September on even calendar years, Green County Cheese Days brings some of Wisconsin cheese’s most celebrated cheese champions—
Began in 1914 and initially conceived as an answer to a small town Illinois-based celebration of sauerkraut, the first festival was put together by a group of enterprising local businessmen in only 19 days. Over 100 years later, the festival is still going strong, touting “Old World tradition” and “out of this world celebration.”
“Green County has been referred to as Wisconsin’s epicenter of cheesemaking due to the number of master cheesemakers and cheese factories,” Noreen Rueckert, Coordinator of Cheese Days, says. “We’re a county that has more dairy animals than people. This is what we do, and this is where cheese comes from. We encourage anybody who is interested to come here to the source and see how it happens and meet the people responsible for creating the products.”
2018’s Green County Cheese Days, held September 14-16, though unseasonably hot, drew crowds from with throughout the state and across the country.
“We love to see some of the same people travel back to Monroe for Cheese Days, toting their coolers to sample and purchase our cheeses at the cheese tent,” Teena Buholzer, Marketing Director for Klondike, one of the Cheese Days’ sponsors, says. “It is amazing to me how many people appreciate and stock up on real Wisconsin cheese. Cheese truly is the gold of Green County and gives the festival a flavorful appeal.”
Each year, the event features a large cheese tent with eight local vendors selling products and educating festival goers. This year, the 40’ x 120’ tent was sponsored by the Foreign Type Cheesemaker’s Association and included Emmi Roth USA, Edelweiss Creamery, Landmark Creamery, Klondike CheeseCompany, Valley View Cheese, Chula Vista (V&V Supremo), Brunkow Cheese, and Decatur Dairy. Attendees could meet the cheesemaker, sample cheeses, and buy some of the finest products of Green County’s bounty.
“Cheesemaking is central to who we are as a state, and we’re proud to show off our dairy heritage at Green County Cheese Days. It’s a unique opportunity for the whole community to celebrate the cheesemakers and dairy farmers who’ve made Wisconsin the best place in the world for cheese,” said Suzanne Fanning, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer Dairy Farmers of Wisconsin.
The weekend-long event also featured live music and entertainment, beer and wine tastings, parades and fairs, dairy and cheesemaking tours, a cow milking contest, 5k and 10k races and a fun-run, and a live Old World Cheesemaking Demonstration in which members of the Foreign Type Cheesemaker’s Association created a 200-pound wheel of emmentaler on the square.
“We actually have a milk truck come in and pour milk into a copper kettle. We have Wisconsin master cheesemakers lead that demonstration, and we follow it up at the end with a demonstration of how cheeses are graded and scored at contests using the criteria of the USA and World Championship Cheese Competitions,” Noreen says.
Cheese Days attendees get a peek behind the curtain at those criteria, and see how Green County cheeses—like Emmi Roth’s 2016 World Cheese Champion Roth® Grand Cru® Surchoix Gruyere—are judged to be some of the world’s best.
Prospective attendees have plenty of time to pencil in plans for this not-to-be-missed event—held September 18-20, 2020; maybe you’ll see the Deli Market News crew in Green County.