Protected with a cooking oil spray, a Cheddar cheese carving by Troy Landwehr was made in conjunction with programming scheduled by “Discover Wisconsin” at the Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival in Little Chute.
Photo By Ray Mueller
Cheese carving, tasting standard fare at festival
As the title of the event implies, events involving cheese are a major attraction among the many activities at the Great Wisconsin Cheese Festival.
Now in its 24th year, the festival draws an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 visitors to the family-oriented event every year on the first weekend of June at Doyle Park here.
Throughout the history of the festival, cheese carving and cheese tasting have been an integral part.
Internationally known cheese carver Troy Landwehr has been there every year and area native Kristi (Vosters) Krieski, now of Reedsburg, remembers being at the Saturday afternoon carving demonstration for at least 18, and perhaps as many as 20, of those years.
Landwehr, who is at ease talking to observers as he works, fashioned an Olympics gold medal from a 40-pound block of Cheddar cheese this year.
In taking time away from his full-time occupation at the Kerrigan Brothers Winery between Kaukauna and Freedom in Outagamie County, he carves cheese blocks for various sponsors and hosts two to three times a month during most of the year and typically as often as two to three times per week during dairy theme events in June.
On July 4, Landwehr will be carving at an event in West Palm Beach, Florida. In preparation for the festival here, he carved a logo for the weekly “Discover Wisconsin” television program, sponsored by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism.
That carving was intended to serve as a model for Discover Wisconsin host Emmy Fink, who was on hand along with a production crew and Liz Fitzsimmons of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, to develop an episode for the show.
Fink, who described herself as “a big rookie” at cheese carving, made a symbolic effort to carve a block of Cheddar into the program’s logo. But once the video had been taken, she moved on to other locations at the festival to add diversity to the program segment.
The other half of the cheese carving shelter was occupied by the extended Vosters family. Joining Krieski and her 10-year old twin daughters Anna and Ashley were her brother Jeremy Vosters and their cousin Luke Vosters.
Wisconsin provided the theme for the two Vosters. Luke, who was carving for the 5th time, fashioned an outline of the state capitol building while Jeremy, whose public carving efforts number about 10, created a Bucky Badger design with his Cheddar block.
Krieski carved an industrial tractor while her daughters, who are novice carvers, worked on lettering to promote dairy products.
Of the 40-pound Cheddar blocks, one each were donated by Land O’Lakes Dairy Foods of Kiel and Simon’s Specialty Cheese of Little Chute. Other sponsors of the blocks were the Manitowoc Milk Producers Cooperative and Van Handel’s Cheese Hut of Appleton.
But those Cheddar block donations and sponsors represented only a start on the total of donations that support the festival. The balance of the donations are for the cheese tasting, which is staged for two hours on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons at the festival.
People line up by the hundreds to file through the two lines, which are filled with up to 25 choices of cheeses and cheese spreads.
Cheese testing coordinator Gerty Van Lith estimates that about 2,000 people take advantage of the tasting treat during the weekend.
One portion of the Discover Wisconsin segment from the festival will be the cheese tasting attraction. For that, Fink stood at the end of a serving line to put a topping of cheese curds on the plates.
The entree of cheeses in the tasting line included Havarti, Gouda, Edam, string cheese, Fontina, Peperoncino, Provolone, sharp, marble, and 4-year old Cheddar, Feta, baby Swiss, Mindoro blue, Brick, Pepper Jack, tomato basil, Monterey Jack, Rainbow, and port wine, brick, and sharp cheddar spreads.
Cheese manufacturers who contributed a total of more than 200 pounds of product for the cheese tasting were Arla Foods of Hollandtown, Baker Cheese of St. Cloud, Bel Brands USA of Little Chute, BelGioioso Cheese of Green Bay, the Krohn Dairy division of Trega Foods at Stangelville, Land O’Lakes of Kiel, Simon’s Specialty Cheese, Widmer Cheese of Theresa, and Swiss Valley Farms of Davenport, IA.