The annual 'Cheese Rolling' in Gloucestershire, England, has to be amongst the most hilarious events in the world. As the name indicates, it involves contestants running or as is normally the case, tumbling down a steep 200-meter incline in pursuit of an 8lbs wheel of Double Gloucester cheese.
The competition, which takes place on the last Monday of May, is a tradition that dates all the way back to the 1900's. While it remained a well-kept secret for many years, the event has experienced tremendous growth over the last decade. This came to a head in 2009, when 15,000 people flocked to the Cooper's Hill to watch the fun event. Concerned about the increasing crowds and potential for injuries, the officials decided to cancel the age-old tradition, in 2010.
That however does not seem to have deterred the organizers or the fans who have continued to flock to this fun event that entails grown men and women chasing an out of control cheese wheel. The fun of course is in watching the contestants themselves spiral out of control and brought to a halt by 'special catchers', who are lined up at the finish line.
This year's event, which took place on May 26th, attracted a crowd of over 5,000 people from all across the world. While most had come to enjoy the mayhem, there were many brave souls that had traveled from great distances just to take a plunge down the steep Cooper's Hill.
As is the tradition, the competition comprised of four downhill races including a women's race and three uphill races - for girls and boys (14 and under) as well as a mixed competition for adults. The craziness ended with a grand finale - a mass descent of the hill for anyone brave enough to tumble down with the large crowd. While the 2013 contenders had to settle for foam cheese wheels because the officials had threatened to hold the cheesemaker liable for injuries, this fear seemed to have either been ignored or retracted this year.
That meant that the 2014 competitors were chasing down wheels of delicious cheese handmade by 87-year-old cheesemaker, Diana Smart. But of course not everyone was doing it for the prize. Gloucestershire resident Josh Shepherd who won the first competition apparently hates cheese. The 19-year-old cheese-rolling veteran who has never won before, says he zipped down like a 'rocket' to ensure that a local took home the first race of the day and, because it was fun.
This year's event also included an extra race thanks to Gloucestershire's twin city Gouda, whose team came bearing a 7lbs wheel of the city's namesake cheese. While the roll of the dark orange Dutch cheese which is a little softer than the Double Gloucester cheese was unable to take the rigors of the steep hill and disintegrated by the time it rolled down, the participants of the inaugural 'rolling of the Gouda cheese' did not seem to care! They were just here to have fun and roll with the punches - literally!
As for the injuries? According to the organizers, beyond the usual scrapes, grazes and bruises, there were just a few. One contestant suffered a broken ankle, while another, dislocated a shoulder. The most serious one was incurred by the women's second place winner, Lacey Matthews, who sustained a broken neck. While something that serious may deter any other contestant, Matthews reportedly said that she could not wait to return in 2015 and try win the coveted cheese wheel!
Resources: cheese-rolling.uk.com, huffingtonpost.com