We “dairy” you to try this out!
Easily one of the most bizarre festivals that we have come across, Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake is as unique as it is utterly and butterly insane. This UK festival hosts a competition where a 5 kg round of Double Gloucester Cheese is rolled while avid competitors chase it down a hill. The first to cross the finish line wins the cheese. Confused? Let us elaborate.
What its all about
The festival is held at Spring Break Holiday near Gloucester in England, in a village known as Brockworth. It is traditionally held for the locals, but since its popularity has rocketed in the past few years, people from all over the world head down here to be a part of the Cheese Roll.
There are officially two theories about the origin of the festival. One, is said to have evolved from maintaining the grazing rights (Grazing rights is a legal term referring to the right of a user to allow their livestock to feed graze in a given area) for the common people. The second one is a little more interesting as it claims that the festival has its roots in the pagan tradition of rolling things down a hill. This was considered sacred. It might also have links to another tradition of scattering sweets and food items, a fertility rite to encourage growth of the fruits in the forest.
Whether or not the festival has emerged from these traditions, we don’t know. But it sure seems to be great fun, if not extremely dangerous. People have been known to sustain painful injuries while chasing the cheese. In 1993, fifteen people were injured, four seriously, chasing cheeses down one in three hills, but this has hardly deterred people from participating.
After all this, you’re probably wondering what is it about the cheese that makes running down a steep hill and almost breaking your head worth it. Well it’s a little disappointing to know that the cheese is nothing close to extraordinary.
It’s usually 5-7 kg Double Gloucester cheese that is used, a hard cheese traditionally made in a wheel shape. In fact, the cheese itself is known to have injured some patrons so organizers have started using a foam replica to avoid any further damage. The rules of the game are simple, get to the finish line first and take the cheese home.
The cheese roll
The event has garnered a lot of attention over the years and has not been without controversy. It has been held regularly and there are always a few thousand people who make their way to the village to watch about 20-40 contestants brave it out. In 2010, the organizers tried to manage the run a little better but were shut down but intense backlash, even death threats. Amongst the changes they were planning to make were security, perimeter fencing to allow crowd control and a fee for the viewing areas, which was going to be used to manage the crowds and safety of the contestants better. The event proceeded without management.
The festival has its own champions. People like Helen Thorpe and Chris Anderson are people who have won the races several times and are somewhat local heroes. But the contestants are not restricted to the locals, with people swarming in from everywhere to witness this whacky event. In 2013, one race was won by Tomoaki Tanaka from Japan, who was dressed as a ninja for the occasion. Another race was won by Kenneth Rackers, a former Army soldier from Colorado Springs, Colorado. He actually trained regularly to win the race and ended up taking the cheese home after all.
The festival takes place on May 30, 2016.