Recreation & Destinations

Cheese Days Celebrates 100th Anniversary

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Started as a celebration of Monroe’s Swiss heritage, this festivity is all about cheese. Discover the many ways this small Wisconsin town goes cheese-wild.

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“Come to Cheese Days in Monroe – that’s the place for you to go. Music, dancing, yodeling, too, and a big parade for you. And we know you will be pleased, when you taste Green County Cheese. Come to Cheese Days, come to Cheese Days, come to Cheese Days in Monroe!”

This theme song for Green County Cheese Days has been around since 1965, but the actual festival, held on even-numbered years, celebrates its 100th anniversary Sept. 19-21. To create a memorable centennial event, the organization gathered 100 accordion players who’ll perform the classic Cheese Days song with the Monroe City Band.

In 1914, Cheese Days began as a celebration of the Swiss heritage in Green County. Now, 100 years later, this Monroe tradition is even stronger, attracting more and more visitors each event. About 3,000 people attended the very first festival in 1914, but this year’s event is likely to attract 100,000.

“Cheese Days started, in 1914, when some people from downtown Monroe wanted to increase business in the area,” says Noreen Rueckert, Cheese Days coordinator. “They went to Sauerkraut Day in Forreston, Ill., then came back and planned Cheese Days in just nine days. It’s all based on sauerkraut.”

The three-day festivity will be packed with activities. Interactive events are an important part of Cheese Days, including contests that provide visitors with opportunities to compete for prizes and community recognition.

Before the Cow Milking Contest starts, a special parade exhibits seven breeds of dairy cattle. Then, based on lottery tickets, 20 people are chosen to participate in the competition. At the end, the winner receives coupons to buy food at the cheese tent.

Another featured event is the “Build a Cheese House” contest for kids. Children create miniature houses made out of cheese to win a surprise package.

And there’s much more. Visitors can attend barn quilt tours, dairy farm tours and an arts and crafts fair. A Swiss brass band will perform throughout all three days of the celebration.

“We want to keep the focus on cheese,” says Rueckert. “At the opening procession, cheesemakers from local factories will be recognized, holding the signature cheeses from their businesses.”

As one may surmise, many of the food options at Cheese Days involve dairy products. Vendors will sell grilled cheese, cheesecake on a stick and deep fried cheese curds, in addition to other festival foods like cinnamon rolls, hot dogs and steak sandwiches.

On the final day, the Swiss Colony Cheese Days Parade will close the event with a bang. The only parade in Wisconsin that begins with Brown Swiss cows, it kicks off at the Green County Fairgrounds at 12:30 p.m. Group units can compete for prizes of Best Decorated Float and Best Use of Theme Float, and all parade entries qualify for the People’s Choice Award.

Cheese Days, free to the public, is held throughout downtown Monroe.

For more information about specific event times and locations, visit cheesedays.com.

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