World's cheese capital welcomes new year
For what was the ninth observance of the event, a few changes were introduced on New Year's Eve at "The Big Cheese Drop" in Plymouth, which earned an official claim to being "The Cheese Capital of the World" during 2015.
With the cooperation of the city's fire department and the sponsorship of Sartori Foods, which is one of several major cheese operations headquartered in the city, an 80-pound sheet metal frame in a wedge shape is hoisted into the air by a 100-foot ladder truck and then lowered as hundreds of people watch and many take pictures.
The frame is marked with the numbers of the new year and decorated with an emblem and product label for Sartori's multiple major award-winning BellaVitano cheeses.
To make the attraction more family friendly, thereby providing a better time for children to attend, the raising and lowering of the Big Cheese frame was conducted at 10 p.m. rather than at midnight, as had been the case in the previous eight years.
Directed by Greg Heberlein, five firemen from the 37-member Plymouth volunteer department attached the frame unit with ropes, lifted it and then lowered it again.
The event was staged on the parking lot adjacent to the Plymouth Arts Center, which is located in the city's downtown.
Inside the Arts Center, the 400 to 500 people who turned out for the evening were treated to live music by The Jamies & Friends band with sit-in performances by Elizabeth Cramer, Justin Gigstad, Mojo Capriccio and Carter Shilts.
In addition to the cheese loaves of specialty cheeses provided by Sartori, people in the crowd enjoyed a great variety of appetizers and desserts shared by about two dozen of the attendees. On a bonfire at the center plaza, visitors were invited to build and enjoy the S'mores or pudgie pies that they brought. For the people who stayed until midnight, a complimentary champagne toast was offered.
As a special treat for the evening, Jim and Jan Sartori of the cheese company provided 250 packets — one per household — which contained one 5.3-ounce wedge each of the specialty Asiago Rosemary & Olive Oil and BellaVitano Merlot cheeses.
The Asiago has won a first place in its category in the World Cheese Championship, and the BellaVitano took a first place in an American Cheese Society contest.
The label on both of the wedges indicated the cheese is rBST free. The Sartori family has been engaged in making cheese in Plymouth since 1939.