Can you imagine a truckload of Wisconsin cheese curds? That sounds like a dream, but it is not too far from coming true. Wisconsin’s dairy industry is part of our state’s economy, society, and future. We dedicate the entire month of June to celebrate the delicious and nutritious products our farmers and processors provide. Every other year in September, we extend that dairy celebration with Green County’s famous Cheese Days. The event has to be a biannual festival because of its size and scale attracting more than 100,000 visitors who eat cheese by the truckload.
The Monroe Optimist Club, a local community partner, said it has sold nearly 176,000 pounds
of deep-fried cheese curds at the festival to date to serve the needs of youth in the community. Each year, the club donates nearly $40,000 to projects and organizations. The organization hopes to hit the $2 million mark at this year’s Cheese Days help Sept. 14-16 in Monroe.
Green County Cheese Days started in 1914. After seeing a little town in Illinois throw a festival for sauerkraut, the original organizers thought Wisconsin could have a more grand cheese celebration. A group of local businessmen planned the festivities and drove a roadster through the city of Monroe to publicize the event. According to the festival’s history, a handmade sign attached to the vehicle read, “First cheese Day Committee 1914-We Started Something!”
More than 100 years later, the festival pairs Old World tradition and Swiss heritage with new entertainment that includes contests, music, a parade, and, of course, cheese. Green County has 31 dairy processing plants including 12 cheese manufacturers, according to the Green County Development Corporation. In fact, the county has more Master Cheesemakers and cheese manufacturing plants than any other in the state. Wisconsin crafts more than 600 varieties, types and styles of cheese. Over 60 varieties of specialty, award-winning cheeses are made right in Green County, and some of those are not made anywhere else in the country!
In addition to Wisconsin’s irresistible fried cheese curds and unique artisan cheeses, the festival perfectly blends entertainment and education with dairy farm and barn quilt tours, Swiss heritage displays, old-time cheese making demonstrations, antique tractors and more.
I am fortunate to not only have this festival take place during my year as Alice but also have such a strong community host the 72nd Alice in Dairyland Finals. The young women selected as Alice in Dairyland Top Candidates will have the chance to go behind the scenes of Green County, network with agribusinesses and likely eat a lot of cheese from May 9-11. Anyone can see the finals for themselves!
If you’re dreaming of a cheesy September, make a visit to Monroe for Cheese Days. The celebration can cure any cheese cravings! Will you be there?