Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cheese Daze

This past weekend I visited my cousin Kevin and his family in Monroe, Wisconsin.  I went to see my adorable cousin Zachary.  I went to spend a pleasant day with family.  I went because Monroe was hosting it's semi-annual Cheese Days.  Yes, you read that correctly, and yes, it was everything you're hoping it would be.

Cheese Days has been a Monroe tradition since 1914.  I was going to provide a brief history of the genius behind a festival devoted solely to cheese, but the official Cheese Days website does it better than I ever could.  To wit:

Back in 1914, the concept of Cheese Days originated from the notion that if some little town in Illinois could have a festival commemorating sauerkraut, then a celebration based on cheese would be an even better idea.

A group of local businessmen planned the festivities in just nine days, driving a roadster through the city of Monroe to publicize the event. A hand-lettered sign attached to the vehicle proclaimed “FIRST CHEESE DAY COMMITTEE 1914 – WE STARTED SOMETHING!”

And did they ever.

Today we invite you to take part in Cheese Days 2008– where Old World tradition has generated an out-of-this-world celebration.*

That's actually the Cheese Days' slogan: "Old World tradition ... out-of-this-world celebration."  I'm not exactly sure what that means, but I'll let it slide because on Sunday I spent 2 hours in a cheese-tasting tent with women in Swiss milkmaid costumes serving me cheeses beyond my wildest dreams.  There were spiced cheeses and fruit cheeses, cheeses for baking and cheeses for melting, cheeses in curd form and delicious little cheeses on a grill that you had to stand in line for but were totally worth the wait.  

Cheese consumption was just the beginning, my friends.  Cheese Days, like all respectable Wisconsin fests, offered a host of other events.  Among other things, there was a parade, live polka music, a yodeling competition, a kiddie tractor pull, and a series of cow milking contests.  After watching several heats of cow milking my competitive spirit was roused, so I entered the Open Amateur Cow Milking Contest.  Let it be known that cow milking is harder than it looks.  I asked the farmer handling my cow for some tips before the start of the competition and he told me to squeeze the cow's teat between my thumb and forefinger and to pull steadily.  Fine!  Not too hard!  The farmer was cute ... I figured after I was done milking his bessie he'd hand her off to someone else and we would split some deep fried cheese curds and fall in love.  Turns out that's not what happened.  Mr. Cute Farmer didn't have anything to say to me after my four minutes of milking were up, and I can't say that I blame him.  There were long stretches of time where no milk was coming out of my cow's teats ... I ended up with about an inch of milk in my pail.  As someone who has recently hunkered down to milk a cow, let me tell you that there is a fine line between milking a cow and fondling a cow.  And if no milk is forthcoming, you tell me why I've got my hands on that udder.

After my cow milking failure we walked over to the Dairy Education tent, where I quickly improved my spirits by correctly identifying 6 out of 6 breeds of cow.  I may not be able to milk one, but I know an Ayrshire from a mile away.  Kevin and I ended the day in fine Wisconsin fashion by drinking too much beer.  This was the first year that Cheese Days allowed open containers of beer on the main square and, let me just say, I wholeheartedly approve.  I don't know that I would have been able to polka quite so spiritedly if I hadn't been able to drink between songs.  Kevin and I spent the first part of the evening holed up in Bob's, a local bar with such a nasty reputation that it was practically empty, despite the presence of 30,000 out-of-town visitors.  Bob's was great!  They served several local beers from the New Glarus Brewing Company.  Kevin and I got soused on Laughing Trout lager and harassed a woman we saw wearing a hand crafted "I'm considering voting for the MILF" t-shirt.  After I referred to Palin in unkind terms in voice that was perhaps a bit loud, we decided to head outside to the main stage.

The main stage had hosted an array of performances throughout the day.  Yodelers had yodeled, tumblers had tumbled, and the New Glarus Swiss Miss Dancers had nearly caused a riot.  By the time Kevin and I made it outside at 10:30 pm, the Copper Box Band was in full polka swing.  All of the older folks (the people who in fact knew how to polka) were long gone.  In their place were scores of drunk young people hopping back and forth from one foot to another.  I ended my first Cheese Days polka-ing deliriously with my cousin Kevin, secure in the knowledge that I didn't look as awkward as the guy in the cut off Harley shirt next to me.

PS If you have time, I recommend taking a look at the official Cheese Days website.  It's pretty great.  While I was perusing the history link I came across some great events that took place during Cheese Days of yore.  I particularly would have liked to be at Cheese Days in 1940, when Mrs. William Chambers of Juda won the cow milking competition with nearly 20 pounds of milk in three minutes, and Turner Hall hosted a jitterbug contest. 

PPS I just read the Savage Love column in this week's Onion, where Mr. Savage refers to testicles as "scrabble bags." There's no way I'll be able to get that image out of my head before Scrabble Club tonight.

*I'm not up on my MLA regulations, but don't sue me, Cheese Days! I love you.  All quoted information can be found at


Jenn said...

OMG! I want to go next year! Put it on your calendar now!!!

megamax said...

thank goodness you got another "fest" to add to your list (which must be getting unwieldy by now!). hasta la vista, baybee