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Try to Keep Your Eye on the Prize at the Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling Festival

Published by Scottie Bakes, Writer

Country: United Kingdom

The Experience

Roughly 200 years ago a group of geniuses decided it would be fun to chase a wheel of cheese down the steepest hill they could find. Although there is no concrete information describing how this tumble derby began, or why the Double Gloucester wheel of cheese is its coveted prize, one thing is for sure, the Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling Festival is one of the UK's most anticipated annual events. Before the rest of the world discovered the Brit's idea of fun it was attended only by locals, but over the years the popularity of Gloucestershire's cheese rolling has grown immensely and now attracts crazy cheese chasers from around the world.

Every May long weekend a bunch of people (drunk, crazy... most likely both) take their spot on the starting line at the top of Cooper's Hill, located in Gloucestershire, England. They release a wheel of cheese and the first person down the hill to catch it wins. If you're wondering why it's called 'Cheese Rolling' and not called 'Cheese Chasing' take a quick look at some of the photos. It's impossible to stay on your feet the entire way down, so get some rugged clothes, padding or even an eye-catching costume and get ready to roll.

The day starts off like most holidays, a full English breakfast complimented with some pints and then all aboard a bus to be taken to Cooper's Hill. By no means is this your average bus ride, on this bus it is a requirement that random outbreaks of karaoke take place, aided of course by the occasional beverage. Typical playlists might include Ring of Fire, Wonderwall and a few Aussie classics. After the two and a half hour drive from London it's time for some exercise; just a light hour and a half hike up Cooper's Hill.

With the starting line underfoot, it is the first time the reality of how steep Cooper's Hill really is, dawns. With roughly twenty people per race and another hundred waiting, a silence falls and participants stagger in the wind as the anticipation builds. In a flash the horn is sounded and everyone starts racing the hill, some still on their feet and some already doing uncoordinated acrobatics. Although many come in with a game plan on how to maneuver down Cooper's Hill, all bets are off when you realize your running like a three year old who's feet can't keep up with their body, and from that point on it becomes a blur of ground, sky, and mud.

At the bottom of Cooper's Hill, to our dizzying discontent we were informed that the coveted Double Gloucester wheel of cheese is only used in the first five races. So if you plan on participating in the Cheese Rolling Festival try to get in the first five races to have a chance at taking home some cheese.

Although a bit dangerous, Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling Festival is loads of fun and quite the unique rush. Not too mention the bragging rights you get for being able to say you participated in one of ESPN's craziest sports. If you can't make it to the top of Cooper's Hill to participate, as a spectator it’s still a hilarious day taking in the uncontrollable tumbles and tosses of participants.

When to Go to Coopers Hill Cheese Rolling

The Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling Festival is held on the last Monday in May in concurrence with the Spring Bank Holiday. Unfortunately, the Cheese Rolling Festival has been cancelled for 2010 due to the growing number of people attending. In 2009 roughly 15, 000 people attended, which is three times the population of the area it takes place in. It will make it's return in 2011 which is expected to be its largest turn out yet. So if you're planning to go to the Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling Festival in 2011 make sure you're there early or you may miss out.

Odds n' Ends

The best way to enjoy the Cooper's Hill Cheese Rolling Festival is the in company of good friends, some beverages and dawning your finest sweats or costume. Every year there are injuries anywhere from concussions to broken bones, so if you do plan on participating be prepared for the bumps and bruises that come along with the ride.


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