Activities and attractions that have been part of its agenda since its inauguration and many that have been added along the way highlighted the 25th anniversary of the Greater Wisconsin Cheese Festival at Doyle Park here on the weekend of May 31-June 2.
Light showers during the afternoon of Saturday, June 1 and a rainfall that evening created some disruptions and inconveniences but the festival carried on almost as scheduled.
The schedule included a variety of cheese-related activities, multiple musical groups, special entertainment for children, food booths operated by area non-profit groups, and carnival amusement rides.
The free cheese tasting offered on Saturday and Sunday afternoons at the festival attracts 3,000 or more samplers of about two dozen varieties of cheese. According to the organizers, that estimate is based on the number of toothpicks used to fill a plate with pieces of the cubed cheeses. Cheese curds are provided as a dessert.
This year's lineup of cheeses included Cheddar of various ages, a Cheddar spread, brick, Feta, blue, mozzarella, Provolone, Fontina, Monterey Jack, Edam, Asiago, Havarti, Colby, Baby Swiss, pepper Jack, string, and tomato basil.
Starting about 30 minutes before the double serving line opens, people line up by the hundreds to obtain the cheese samples.
Some of the cheese varieties are purchased by the festival committee but a great majority are donated by cheese manufacturers and other contributors.
Providers of the cheese this year included Simon's Cheese of Little Chute, Arla Foods of Hollandtown, Bel Gioioso of Green Bay, Widmer's Cheese of Theresa, Bel Brands of Kaukauna, Krohn Dairy of Stangelville, Baker Cheese of St. Cloud, Swiss Valley Farms of Davenport, IA, Thiel Cheese and Ingredients of St. John, and Countryside Veterinary Service of Appleton.
An annual attraction that draws hundreds of observers at the festival is the cheese carving demonstration on Saturday afternoon.
This year's carvers were Troy Landwehr of Little Chute, Kristi Krieski and twin 11 year-old daughters Anna and Ashley of Reedsburg, Jeremy Vosters of Little Chute, and first time carver Ben Vander Logt of Freedom.
Vander Logt, a University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh student who has experience working with clay sculpturing, fashioned a facial representation of former Green Bay Packer head coach Vince Lombardi. Landwehr used a Dutch painting as his guide in carving a woman milking a cow.
Krieski carved a piece to recognize the 25th anniversary of the event while her daughters carried out a milk and butter game theme along with a depiction of a basketball net by Anna.
To recognize the construction of a Dutch windmill project in Little Chute, Vosters carved an outline of the structure.
The 40-pound blocks of medium-aged Cheddar cheese that the carvers used as their raw material were donated by FarmFirst Dairy Cooperative, Simon's Specialty Cheese, Land O'Lakes of Kiel, and Van Handel's Cheese Hut of Appleton. The festival purchased the block that was halved for the Krieski twins.
Next to the park shelter where the cheese carving was staged, Mad Dog & Merrill conducted their grilling show. For most of three hours, they grilled dozens of pizzas that were sampled as treats by the festival attendees.
Other cheese-related activities at the festival included a cheese curd eating contest, a cheesecake contest, a Sunday morning "Big Cheese" breakfast, a Cheddar Chase Walk/Run, and the "Big Cheese" parade on Saturday morning.