For many people, the most memorable part of The Swiss Colony Cheese Days Parade is the clanging bells in the distance signaling the pending appearance of the decorated Brown Swiss cows. Leading the herd has been a tradition for John and Becky Wegmueller since 1990. This year, parade spectators will see the Wegmuellers twice – once while walking with the cows, and a second time in a fancy horse-drawn carriage as they fulfill their royal duties as King and Queen of the 2012 Green County Cheese Days festival.
As long-time dairy farmers and agricultural advocates, the couple is delighted to be part of an event that serves as a boost for the Green County area and the dairy industry.
John helped get the festival's Cow Milking Contest started a number of years ago – at first held right on the Courthouse lawn. Most notably, for the past ten festivals he has coordinated the efforts of area farmers who transport their best-behaved bovines to play starring roles in the parade, in honor of the Swiss tradition of “Alpabzug”, when the farmers bring their herds of cattle down from the Alpine mountain pastures at the end of the summer grazing season. “When the cows leave the fairgrounds, there’s a bit of coaxing required to get them moving,” says John, “but when they get to the square, I swear they realize they’re the center of attention and they really perk up. Once they round the corner to head back, the pace picks up and they seem to be in a big hurry to get home!”
The Wegmuellers have been involved in various agricultural organizations through the years, hosted the Green County Breakfast on the Farm in 1990, and have often welcome visitors to their farm. The couple's son Daniel, along with his wife Ashley, represents the fourth generation on their family farm. Continuing in the family tradition, Daniel has a herd of 120 Brown Swiss cows. “Dan has bells on about 20% of the herd, and they’re very friendly cows,” says John. “If you get your shirt tugged on it’s one of the pets – Jenny or Noodles.”
Green County Cheese Days offers festival-goers numerous opportunities to meet dairy cows and learn more about agriculture. On Friday and Saturday, visitors can board a bus headed for the countryside to tour a dairy farm and see some barn quilts along the way. On Saturday there is a Cow Milking Contest (arrive early to sign up for a chance to try) and the Old Time Copper Kettle Cheesemaking Demonstration - watch as veteran cheesemakers create a 200-pound wheel of cheese, hand-stirred the old fashioned way in a giant copper kettle. The Family Farm Adventure Tent is open all weekend with hands-on stations, educational activities, and ag trivia for kids; and in the Cheese Tent you can taste the best of Green County's locally made cheese and purchase your favorites to take home.
For a complete schedule of all the events, visit www.cheesedays.com. Call toll free 1.800.307.7208 to request a brochure by mail. This year’s festival is Sept. 14 – 16.
Source: Green County Cheese Days