The World Champion Cheese Contest is the largest international cheese competition in the world, hosted by the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association. It all began humbly enough in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin in 1957 with a Cheddar Championship Contest. Three judges ranked 108 cheeses from the U.S., Canada, England, Scotland, and Australia. The contest was held again the following year, which is when it was decided that the event would be biennial, taking place on even numbered years.
In 1972, the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association decided to expand the contest to include five more classes of cheese: namely, Colby, Swiss, Brick, Italian, and an Open Class. In addition, the first place winners from each class were judged against one another, and the top entrant was dubbed the "World Champion Cheesemaker". International participation also improved from 23 of 108 in 1957, to 58 of 123 in 1972.
Since the initial expansion in 1972, the contest has grown to include 15 internationally selected judges, over 1132 entrants, 33 cheese classes, 3 butter classes, and a competition for best retail packaging in 2002. European cheesemakers have captured the World Champion Cheesemaker prize in 9 of the past 13 contests, and have in particular dominated in the 90's. In the individual classes, the Amercians have fared better, winning over half of the prizes in 2000. Unsurprisingly, given the state's reputation for dairy products, over half of the American prize winners in 2000 were from Wisconsin.
Although the World Champion Cheese Contest is the world's largest, and arguably the most prestigious, cheese competition, there are many others out there. Here are a couple:
The World Cheese Awards: http://www.finefoodworld.co.uk/cheese_awards/
The American Cheese Society's Annual Cheese Competition: http://www.cheesesociety.org/winners2001.htm
You can also go visit the World Champion Cheese Contest site and check on the progress of the current competition at