Come to Cheese Days

Recovering from Cheese Days in Monroe.

I'm more exhausted and aching after 2 1/2 days of festivities than when I hiked the hills of Effigy Mounds 3 days in row. Cheese Days if chock full of family fun. There were so many children's activities this year and we hit them all. I love the local flavor of this event. I am very proud of the town and the county I live in. I may not have been born here, but I've been here long enough to know someone working in each tent and belonging to a Cheese Days volunteer committee and Swiss Singers and Cheese Days Kings and Queens and Cheese Days Ambassadors. This is a huge event and local people do it all from set up to performance.

It feels good to combine celebrating this quirky Swiss heritage and cheese-themed event with being able to buy local. We checked all the requisites off our list: 1)Listened to yodeling 2)Watched men in suede shorts blow alphorns 4)Ate grilled AppleJack cheese sandwiches from the Farm Bureau, the famous fried cheese curds from the Optimists, cream puffs from the AgChest and veal brauts from Turner Hall, 5)Sampled world famous award winning cheeses in the cheese tent (Who knew German Brick was even more pungent than Limburger?) and 6) Watched the 3-hour Cheese Days Parade which was especially excellent this year. Of course we also helped the economy by giving money to the out-of-towners too. We rode the carnival rides and bought my son's first corn dog, apple dumpling and caramel apple from those carny-like food trucks that are at least based in Wisconsin and northern Illinois.

There was also the craft fair which received a make-over this year to reflect the changes in customers' tastes. There was no cover charge and no fences and so people felt free to browse. There are two large fields of grass divided by a street. The crafters were set up on one side and, new this year, booths with an arts focus were set up on the other. While I admired the amount of work the crafters put into their products and bought some hand made soaps as easy little gifts, I found the arts area more interesting. There definitely is room for more vendors there, but I loved the pottery, wood sculpture and paintings. I bought a clay leaf pin for myself and a larger clay leaf with a beautiful green glaze as a Christmas present for a friend I knew would appreciate it. I'm a nature freak, so I could have bought several more pieces in that booth with imprints of leaves and flora combined with rustic forms and gorgeous glazes. I'm kind of kicking myself today for not picking up a vase, but I have such a hard time spending money on myself. Nature's Earthenware by Nathan Kohlman

I have thought about setting up a booth at Cheese Days for years. 10s of thousands of people descend upon the town, so it would be great exposure for my business. The issue is all my pieces are custom made. I don't do ready-to-sell items. My pottery houses are always in one of two states: "In Progress" or "Shipped."

The solution is to find some interesting homes, take some great photos, sculpt replicas of these houses and keep these houses as display pieces for just such events. However, these pieces take many, many, many hours to create. Things are usually so busy here, that every year, I must refuse a certain number or orders. I also am not certain that this is the best use of such a great deal of time. Not only in terms of creating the display items, but in preparing for and attending these type of fairs. I work nearly every week-end as it is. Judging success would also be a challenge. With having no actual items for sale, there would be no tally of receipts. The purpose would be marketing and future sales and tracking these dividends over time would be at least possible, but difficult.

Another solution, would be to have ready-to-buy products in addition to information on my custom replicas. And then we go back to the issue of whether I feel ready or willing to expand my product lines. It would be quite an investment of time and effort when I'm nearly content with how things are right now. If it weren't for all these pesky ideas floating around in my head.

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