The Amish Country Cheese Festival’s International Cheese competition in Arthur, IL, was established 20 years ago, after ice curling was officially added to the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics.
Held the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, 25,000 people attended the event in 2019—its 48th year. The International Cheese Curling competition was started by a local cheese maker and adopted by the Arthur community as an end of summer highlight.
The sanctioned competition uses 4-pound wrapped wheels (stones) of cheese, usually a baby Swiss, a broom and a team of four curlers. The ‘ice rink’ consists of a close to regulation-sized slippery mat with a standard three ring curling target. Points are assigned based on the final resting place of the cheese ‘stones’. One team member is designated the ‘broomer’ and uses his or her broom to influence the ‘stone’ on its way towards the target. The other team members, after one practice delivery each, get one delivery for points toward the target. They may slide (not very effective over this distance), toss (occasionally works) or roll the stone from behind the official ‘hog line’, about 50 feet from the target. Points are awarded based on the final stopping location on the target for the three throws per team. Runoffs are common until a winner is decided.
There is no team entry fee, and each team gets to keep their cheese ‘stone’. While sometimes beat up from the competition, the wheels are encased in thick plastic and safe to eat later. Often teams are assembled from families of all age groups or among strangers recruited on the spot, and afterwards a local shop will cut the wheel down so each participant can take their share.
Other cheesy activities during the weekend include free giveaways of more than 800 pounds of cheese and crackers cut for the weekend, a cheese eating contest, a cheese carving contest, and a cheese curd spitting contest. Festival activities include live entertainment, craft vendors, a kids area with rides and activities in Cheesy Hollow, a car show, the Amish Strong Man competition and local specialty shops’ sidewalk sales.