Not so much a festival as an annual competition, we thought that the Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling is unique enough to warrant its own wiki page. The event takes place on Cooper's Hill, in the village of Brockworth in Gloucestershire, England during the May Bank Holiday. It involves precisely what it sounds like; large 7-8 pound wheels of Gloucestershire cheese are released down the hill, and contestants race after them. Whoever gets across the finish line first wins. It should be noted that the hill is very, very steep.
The origins of the race are shrouded in mystery. The first recorded editions of the competition can be traced back to the early 1800s, where the event took place simultaneously with other competitions, such as: 'dancing for ribbons', 'wrestling for a belt', 'grinning (through a horse's collar) for a cake', 'dipping in a tub of water for oranges and apples', 'bobbing for penny loaves smeared in treacle' and 'shin-kicking'! But the celebration could have earlier beginnings, as a pagan festivity rite.
There are 5 downhill races, one for women. First place winner gets a wheel of cheese, while second and third get five quid each.
There are also uphill races, including some for children, with similar prizes.
Great Cheese Controversy
The 2013 edition of the race saw the banning of real cheese rolled down the hill. This was an extremely controversial move on the part of the authorities, as real cheese had been in use since 1954, before that wooden cheese was used because of rationing. Diana Smart, the last person to produce double Gloucestershire cheese by hand using traditional methods, had supplied the famed cheese for the event.
Apparently, the wheels of cheese would roll extremely quickly, and there was the risk of injuring someone. The local council tried to charge people to attend, but residents revolted, with claims of death threats being circulated. The 2013 edition was then organised unofficially with local residents.
There have been allegations of police heavy handedness, with police helicopters used to patrol overhead while the event was taking place.
There was one injury in the 2013 edition as a young Spanish man broke his leg running down the hill.