Sections

Weather Forecast

Close

If it’s an unusual fest, Ellsworth’s got it!

Three-time men 16 and up cheese curd eating contest champion Alex Smrekar smiles when he is announced to the crowd during the 2015 Cheese Curd Festival. Smrekar defended his championship by eating a half-pound of curds in one minute and 32 seconds. His advice: “Break them down small and choke them down.” (Herald photo by Blaze Fugina)

Fourteen years after the former local Sno Fest, Dairy Day and Fourth of July festivities were combined into one big cheesy event, the Ellsworth Cheese Curd Festival has a new claim to fame.

Even the highlights of those past gatherings--many of which have been retained--can’t top this honor. No, the medallion hunt, the pie-baking contest and the kids’ games have nothing individually on what’s proving to be international acclaim.

When they join with other curd-related activities in late June, the result is a presentation nothing short of unique. Or so says www.lovefood.com, which has designated Ellsworth’s annual celebration, which is put on by the Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce, as one of the 10 most unusual food festivals from around the world.

Paul Bauer, Cheese Curd Festival Committee co-chair and CEO at Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery,

“It’s exciting to see the event getting this kind of attention,” Bauer said. “The Cheese Curd Festival is just one of many things we have to be proud of in our community. From an economic standpoint, anytime we can draw people to our village to spend their dollars, it’s a boost to the local economy. Local businesses and their employees benefit, creating a ripple effects across the entire community. And everyone has fun along the way.”

Here’s lovefood’s entry about the hometown’s most well-known happening:

“Cheese Curd Festival, Wisconsin, USA. This festival is not just about the cheese, but specifically cheese curd. The Midwest town of Ellsworth, Wisconsin, has dubbed itself the ‘cheese curd capital’ and the June festival, run by the Ellsworth Chamber of Commerce, is a chance to sample treats such as cheese curd brats and deep-fried curds.

“There’s entertainment, sports events, a cheese curd pie competition and cheese curd dessert contest, a parade and a timed eating contest for serious curd-eaters. The 2015 edition’s theme was ‘Love, Peace and Curds’.”

So what kind of global company is the curd capital keeping? At La Tomatina, Valencia, locals pelt each other with tomatoes.

The Turnip Festival, Switzerland, involves 26 tons of carved turnips paraded around, hollowed out, elaborately decorated and used as lanterns with candles inside.

Spam Jam, Hawaii, has tribute gatherings organized in both Austin, Minn.--home of Hormel, the meat treat’s maker--and in Waikiki, Hawaii, the state where more Spam is eaten than any other. Yuma Lettuce Days Festival, Arizona, USA, finds all vegetables in the spotlight, though there is a giant salad bar and wannabe growers can learn about lettuce growing.

Thorrablot, Iceland, tempts with pickled ram’s testicles, whale blubber, sheep’s heads and rotten shark--it’s actually a salute to ugly food.

Night of the Radishes, Oaxaca, Mexico, is dedicated to carving beautiful sculptures from this unshowy garnish, except these are specially grown, up to 50 centimeters long, 10 centimeters wide and weighing up to three kilos.

The Festival of “Scottish Fish and Chips” features a most un-Italian of dishes in Barga, Tuscany, a part of Italy with connections to Scotland.

And Isle of Wight Garlic Festival stars Britain’s best most pungent garlic, along with other bulbs going into such treats as garlic fudge, garlic biscuits and garlic popcorn.

Documentary made

As if that type of distinction wasn’t enough, Ellsworth and its curd celebration has also been included in “Cheeseheads:The Documentary,” from www.iamacheesehead.com. Portions of a synopsis follow:

“After 20 years of living elsewhere, a man returns to the place of his youth with a camera in hand, ready to rediscover just what it means to be a Cheesehead. While his career choices may have led him elsewhere, he has always been a Cheesehead to the core, a proud Wisconsinite who may have left the state, but the state never left him. Through the course of this video documented journey, he intends to discover the greatness of the state, from its small town Midwest lifestyle to its big city yet seemingly still quite small town metropolises, its rural splendor and everything else in between.

“When most people think of Wisconsin, they think of cheese, beer and, more often than not, the Green Bay Packers, and well they should as Wisconsin is quite proud of those three claims to fame...Of course, what Wisconsin is really all about are its Cheeseheads, the people from the state who make it such a rewarding place to live and be from…

“We’ve also gone about collecting interviews from everyday Cheeseheads, oddities of Wisconsin and many of its famous landmarks…”

The creator and producer of the film, John Mitchell, was born and raised in Cameron. The Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery was featured in the documentary. A DVD release party is planned at a later date.

Economic impact

While the honors bestowed upon the Cheese Curd Festival are fun and unique, they have an even bigger impact: bringing tourists to the area.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Tourism:

  • Day trip visitors spend on average $58 per person during their visit (that spending increases to $185 per person for an overnight visit).

  • Tourism generates a positive impression of the area’s image, which is critical for local economic development.

  • Direct visitor spending in Pierce County during 2014 amounted to $25 million, a 1.89 percent increase over 2013.

The date and theme for next year’s 15th annual event has been set: Surfer Curd: Fun in the Sun June 24-26, 2016.

 
Advertisement