By Jerry Huffman
Special to TravelWisconsin.com
Whether it’s your first trip to Wisconsin or a regular adventure, one of the first things you’ll learn about us is that we love to eat.
Occasionally we invent a new food. Sometimes we pick it by the bushel. And every now and then we may even give it a big ol’ spit, all in the name of good-natured fun.
Pit yourself against Wisconsin's finest fare with these 11 food festivals offering contests in eating, making and even spitting.
Kids and chefs alike compete to create Wisconsin’s best grilled cheese sandwich. The contest offers nine categories – including Best Dessert sandwich – and a wide range of age and experience groups, starting at 12 for young adults.
A great family destination for summmer food, this fest just north of Milwaukee boasts strawberry shortcake-eating and bubblegum-blowing contests. In Wisconsin's strawberry capital, you'll find lots of art, live music and locally grown bounty the locals call "decadent."
It wouldn't be a Wisconsin foodie list without at least one cheese festival. Little Chute goes way cheesy with carving and curd-eating contests, along with a downtown Big Cheese Parade.
Long a destination for almost any food you can eat on a stick, the Wisconsin State Fair is an eater's paradise. Adults only, but the fair’s annual Jalapeno Eating Contest is a crowd favorite. Forgive the pun, but watch for qualifying “heats” to make your way to the main stage.
Packers fans head to Lambeau Field. Hamburger-philes to Seymour. In 1885, a local teenager, Charlie Nagreen, made culinary history by being the first to flatten a meatball and call it a hamburger. Seymour lays claim to its historical roots with a hamburger-eating contest, free balloon rides and a ketchup slip ‘n slide. Just follow your nose to the statue of Charlie in the town park.
Homer Simpson would be right at home at the Bacon Bash, along with some of the best cooks in the country. This year, the bash is a Super Qualifier Event for the World Food Championships. Best bring your A-game for the Best Bacon, Best Sandwich, Best Chili, and Best Dessert categories. Kids will love the pig costume and pig-calling contests.
For more than fifty years, all of Minocqua turns out for a city-wide roast beef cooking contest. Rookie and veteran chefs compete side by side. Save some time to walk and sniff, but don’t miss the Saturday afternoon parade where every roast is walked, carted and cheered all the way to Torpy Park to be carved into sandwiches.
The U.S. Open and the Super Bowl of watermelon eating and seed-spitting contests all rolled into one. The kids division and parent-child competition is perfect for families.
As the single largest producer of cranberries in the nation, Warrens hosts an annual harvesting party every fall. Take part in cooking contests, pie-eating competitions and bog tours to see the fruit that’s grown in water.
Learn about the Ojibwe Indians who settled here in the mid-1700s. Cooking contests focus on the best flatbread and wild rice dishes. There are bed races for the energetic and pie-eating contests for the more sedate.
Three words. Spaghetti. Eating. Contest.
Check out more Wisconsin food festivals to get your fill!
Writer Jerry Huffman has tried hamburgers on three different continents including one very cold burger in Siberia. His bucket list goal is to sample something unique from each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties. He’s not there yet.