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updated: 3/11/2013 7:26 AM

Wisconsin cheese contest sees record number of entries

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Associated Press

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Which cheese stands alone? Judges at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest might have a hard time answering that question this week.

So far, 1,702 cheeses have been entered into the contest -- a record, the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported Sunday .

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The biennial event, held at Lambeau Field since 2009, had 1,604 entries in 2011 and 1,360 in 2009.

"I think it reflects the growth in the varieties being produced out there," John Umhoefer, executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association, said.

The varieties include pepper-flavored cheese, smoked cheeses, sheep cheeses and more. The 2011 grand champion was a goat cheese by LaClare Family Farms of Chilton.

Judging takes place Tuesday and Wednesday morning, and is free and open to the public. The grand champion judging requires a $25 ticket, and proceeds go to Paul's Pantry, a food pantry in Green Bay.

The contest increased its number of judges this year to get everything done in two days -- and to give judges a break, especially those tasting the pepper cheeses.

"The spiciness is on the rise. There's almost a race to see who can get the hottest," Umhoefer said.

Umhoefer said the contest is wide open, and even cheddar cheese -- Wisconsin's iconic cheese -- can't be taken for granted.

"The interesting thing about cheddar, every cheddar tastes different. It's not subtle," Umhoefer said. "It's not just another piece of cheese."

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