New foods entice lovers at Cheese Curd Festival
Lovers of cheese curds have had the date marked on their calendars for months: Ellsworth’s 13th Annual Cheese Curd Festival will be held in the village’s East End Park Friday-Sunday, June 20-22.
While the wide variety of activities and entertainment over the course of the three-day event draws huge crowds, as the “Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin,” it’s the curds that take center stage. This year’s event will be no exception; in keeping with their theme, “Welcome to the Big Cheesy,” it offers even more opportunities for attendees to satisfy their curd cravings.
“People just can’t get enough cheese curds,” said Paul Bauer, Cheese Curd Festival Committee Co-Chair, and CEO and Manager of the Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery. “Every year we bring in more curds, but what we realized is that attendees weren’t just asking for more quantity, they were asking for more variety in the cheese curd foods at the festival.”
As a result, attendees at this year’s event will not only find the fresh and deep fried cheese curds they’ve come to love, but a greater variety of curd specialties. A Cheese Curd Dessert category has been added to the Pie Contest, allowing area bakers to show off their creativity by incorporating fresh curds into their favorite desserts.
As in past years, first, second and third place pie winners will receive cash prizes ranging from $100 for first prize to $40 for third prize. One winner will be selected from among Cheese Curd Dessert category entries and will take home a $100 Ellsworth Creamery Gift Certificate. All pies and curd desserts will then be auctioned off to the highest bidders, with proceeds being used to fund community enhancement projects.
In addition, food vendors have been charged with adding at least one unique cheese curd item to their menu. To encourage them to pull out all the stops, they will be given an opportunity to win a $200 cash prize for their charitable cause through a contest.
“Festival attendees will be asked to take note of their favorite cheese curd foods from our food tent,” said Sarah Ries, Ellsworth Chamber of Commerce Executive Director. “They will then be asked to cast their vote for their favorite cheese curd food item on the Ellsworth Chamber’s Facebook page.”
The vendor of the food item with the most votes will win the cash prize. And, to acknowledge everyone’s participation, three lucky voters will be selected at random to each win an Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery “Whole Herd” gift box, which includes five pounds of famous Ellsworth cheese curds in their five most popular flavors.
“This is a great way for people to support their favorite charitable organizations and have fun sampling unique and creative cheese curd foods throughout the event,” said Ries.
Food vendors, like the Ellsworth Lions Club and Ellsworth School Foundation, have been testing and selecting their menu items carefully. For the past two years, festival food concessions have been provided by local organizations and, for many, the event is a main fundraiser. Much is at stake when selecting menu items for the festival; the more food that’s sold, the more money raised for the charity, so popularity of food items is important. The contest’s $200 cash prize is an added incentive, and each charity agrees the extra funds can make a big impact and do a lot of good.
“We wanted to select something we knew we could do well; that was our first priority,” said Sue Hinck, President of the Ellsworth School Foundation. “We’re adding cheese curd pizzas to our menu this year because we think it could be an event favorite and make us a front-runner for the contest. We’re hoping attendees agree and that we’ll earn the votes of festival-goers!”
Fans of these squeaky nuggets will think they’ve gone to curd heaven when they enter the festival’s food tent. In addition to cheese curd pizzas, poutine--french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds--will be available in the festival food tent. Other items being offered by food vendors will include locally-made cheese curd brats and burgers, cheese curd bacon kabobs, cheese curd baked potatoes and more. Of course, the event wouldn’t be complete without everyone’s favorite: deep-fried curds. This year, in addition to the traditional natural curds, hickory bacon and jalapeno flavors will be offered, too.
As in the past, festival-goers may purchase fresh curds in a variety of flavors from the chamber’s table under the tent, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, a shuttle will transport festival guests to and from the creamery for even more cheese purchases.
More information about the festival, Pie and Cheese Curd Dessert Contest details, and a complete schedule of events can be found online at EllsworthChamber.com. Food photos, and the latest festival news and announcements can also be found on the chamber’s Facebook page, fb.com/EllsworthChamber.