Monday, September 17, 2012

Feeling a little cheesy

Every two years, the tiny Wisconsin town of Monroe holds a cheese festival. Known as the "Swiss Cheese Capital" of the United States, the town (population of approx. 10,000) is crowded with an influx of 100,000 party goers, standing in block-long lines to eat fried cheese curds

We were invited to Cheese Days by our good friends, Marty and Sue, who always dress in cheesey costumes. Hosted by their gracious cousins, Betsey and Larry, our festooned group walked past blocks of Victorian homes to the center of the town square and plunged into the festivities.

Marty and Sue set the standards high for Cheese Days garb, so we joined in the general craziness. We dressed as our favorite types of cheeses: French Brie, String Cheese, and Aged Cheddar. I know. Pretty cheesey, right? One of my friends says we looked "gouda." OK - no more cheese puns.

Cheese Days began in 1914 when local businessman attended a neighboring town's "Sauerkraut Days" and figured Monroe could compete. By the second year, Monroe had 20,000 people attending the event. Our hosts even owned a vintage Cheese Day hat from 1940.

We saw cheese sculptures, by Sarah the Cheese Lady, carved from cheddar and swiss. We drank home-made soda and ate bratwurst. Our friend Marty ordered his traditional swiss cheese sandwich. I was happy with my apple dumpling, topped with ice cream.

The fest held a classic car show, showcased bands on three stages, and shopping. There was also a tent for their home-grown Swiss Colony company - the mail order catalog place that sends those festive towers of petit-fours. Yes - you definitely have plenty to eat at cheese days.

On the way home, we stopped at three HUGE antique malls in Beloit, Wisconsin, and (of course) a cheese shop to buy some fresh curds, a block of Aged Swiss and Wisconsin beef summer sausage.

If you want to go, plan ahead - they do this once every two years - and hotel reservations are hard to come by!

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