The border separating Wisconsin and Illinois may just seem like a dark line on a map to some, but to many residents of both states it is a philosophical and cultural divide known as the Cheddar Curtain. Arguably not as divisive as the original Iron Curtain, it delineates a shift from the pastoral farmlands of Illinois to the dairy country of Wisconsin. Once visitors have crossed the Cheddar Curtain, their paths are bound to intersect with a cheese product eventually.
Wisconsin is world-famous for its cheeses, especially the Wisconsin cheddar and Swiss varieties. This reputation for quality cheese production, and subsequent promotion of its dairy industry, has been know to grate (pun intended) on the nerves of certain Illinois residents who are routinely asked for directions out of their own state and into Wisconsin. While other states which border Wisconsin also refer to the Cheddar Curtain, the state of Illinois appears to take a greater amount of pleasure in the description.
The Cheddar Curtain also refers to another passion of many Wisconsin residents; supporting the Green Bay Packers, a professional football team based in a deep freezer known as the city of Green Bay. Devoted fans of the Green Bay Packers are known as "Cheese heads," and many of them choose to wear foam headgear in the shape of a wedge of cheddar cheese.
Because temperatures in Green Bay can dip below 0°F (-18°C) during football season, devoted Packers fans are considered to be some of the most dedicated in the league. This devotion to a football team in the face of frostbite and hypothermia often remains a mystery to those living outside of the Cheddar Curtain.
Life behind the Cheddar Curtain is often centered around the production, promotion or grudging acceptance of cheese and other dairy products. There is every possibility that a small Wisconsin town's economy depends largely on the tourist trade, and many tourists who travel to Wisconsin expect to sample and purchase authentic Wisconsin cheese, much like visitors to California wine country would expect to sample fine domestic wines. While some may view such devotion to all things cheese as borderline obsessive, those Wisconsin residents whose livelihoods depend on the continued success of the dairy industry might tend to disagree.