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Watch: Cheese Curd festival crowds from far and wide give positive reviews

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Annie Rahier from Northfield, Minn. (left) ran the 5k race for the first time the morning of the Cheese Curd Festival on June 22 with a time of 35 minutes. She poses with her husband, Fred Rahier, in front of the entrance to the festival. Rachel Helgeson / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 11
Cheese Curd Run participants pose together on Broadway Street June 22. Emma Boser, left, placed second in the 5k race. She stands next to Alison Boser and Paul Stemper. The three traveled from Duluth and Cottage Grove, Minn. to run in the race. Rachel Helgeson / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 11
Vendors lined Broadway Street in Ellsworth June 21 and 22 for the festival, selling locally made goods and promoting small businesses. Kayleen Jakes from Brush Strokes, an Ellsworth craft business, helps Samantha Carleton create a tie dye masterpiece June 22. Rachel Helgeson / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 11
Anne Hakvoort (left) and her father Helmar Hakvoort sneak in some cookie and milk tasting time with Anne's roommate from Hudson, Arlette Hensler. The Hakvoorts hail from a dairy farm in Beemster in the Netherlands and said as cheese lovers, they enjoyed the Ellsworth cheese. Anne is rooming with Hensler for a 16-week internship and her father flew in to visit the night before. "It just worked out that he came on the weekend of the festival," Anne said. Rachel Helgeson / RiverTown Multimedia5 / 11
Rohan Gray (left) stands near the kettle corn tent to watch Joel House (right) warm up his kettle and begin popping corn the morning of June 22 at East End Park in Ellsworth. House is from Red Wing and this was his third year bringing fresh kettle corn to the Cheese Curd Festival. Rachel Helgeson / RiverTown Multimedia6 / 11
Lots of sauces were available for cheese curd customers to get their fair share of flavors. Sriracha, ranch, Thai chili, ketchup, sundae caramel syrup and other sauces were offered at the two cheese curd stands where jalapeno bacon, cinnamon sugar and original cheese curds were fried and sold. Rachel Helgeson / RiverTown Multimedia 7 / 11
Little Sara Sommerfeld explores the corn kernel play box at the Cheese Curd Festival. Last year, she and her family from Hudson came to the festival. Rachel Helgeson / RiverTown Multimedia8 / 11
Jamison Spohn from New Hope, Minn. shows off his taco cheese curd dish he picked up at the festival June 22. Spohn said he traveled from New Hope to Ellsworth specifically for the festival, knowing the trip would be worth it for the curds. This was his first time at the Cheese Curd Festival and said his favorite cheese curds were the cinnamon brown sugar flavor. Rachel Helgeson / RiverTown Multimedia9 / 11
Dave Merten poses with his River Falls-made salsa products from Snappy Dog Salsa. Rachel Helgeson / RiverTown Multimedia10 / 11
Carina and Mason Zick (left) from Northfield, Minn. and Elk Mound residents Lukas and Benita Wagner (right) pose with friend Luke Lesmeister (middle). This small gang met halfway to hang out in Ellsworth and see what the cheese curd hype was about they found on Facebook. "We had to cross the state line to get curds otherwise we only have them at the Minnesota State Fair," Carina said. Rachel Helgeson / RiverTown Multimedia11 / 11

Around 30,000 people flooded the streets of Ellsworth's East End Park, downtown and Broadway Street June 21 and 22 to participate in activities and chow down on over 5,000 pounds of cheese curds at the 2019 Cheese Curd Festival.

The economic impact is estimated to be in excess of $2.5 million, Kim Beebe from the Executive Support Team at the Ellsworth Chamber of Commerce said.

This year's two-day festival drew about the same numbers in the crowd as last year's Beebe said, though there likely may have been more.

"Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Everyone really enjoyed the expanded footprint and noticed and were complimentary of the community's beautification efforts along Broadway Street," Beebe said in an email.

The festival committee planned to accommodate tens of thousands of people or more this year, having streamlined their food truck area and providing multiple cheese curd, beer and live music tents.

Parking looked a little different than last year as yellow school buses ran around town collecting people in designated parking lots at the Ellsworth elementary school and the county courthouse to shuttle them to the festival entrance.

Overflow parking was sent to the Pierce County Fairgrounds for a time on Saturday, Beebe said.

"We hope this continues to grow each year as it really is a convenient way to get to and from the festival. Guests should save their steps for walking around the festival market and along Food Truck Alley," Beebe said.

Operation Broadway St., a volunteer-based clean up and maintenance project which was completed in late May, gave local businesses and artists a chance to display their booths on a neatly organized Broadway Street during the festival.

Those who were at the festival and agreed to have their photo taken for the newspaper said they heard about the event on Facebook and reported positive reviews, saying they would return next year.

Some posted reviews on Cheese Curd Festival's Facebook invitation read:

"Everything was wonderful!! Short lines for all vendors (as well as portapottys)...The jalapeno bacon curds were awesome, please make them available!!" - Diane DeGroot

"Great organization! Amazing Food! The Bands were amazing too! So much variety with vendors!" - Angelina Anderson Wiseman

Some traveled far and wide to Ellsworth to hear about the curd hubbub. Many were from the Minneapolis area to get their fill of cheese curds before the Minnesota State Fair; some who participated in the race early June 22 were from as far as Boston, Mass. and Texas.

One family from Europe who happened to be dairy farmers said they were impressed with the Wisconsin curds.

Anne and her father Helmar Hakvoort from Beemster, North Holland in the Netherlands attended the festival and said they enjoyed the cheese curds. The Hakvoorts are from an area in the Netherlands, near Alkmaar, which is known for its delicious cheese and hosts the Dutch Cheese Market.

Anne has been staying with a Hudson resident, Arlette Hensler, as she completes a 16-week internship. Helmar flew in the night before.

"It just worked out that he came on the weekend of the festival," Anne said.

5k and 10k race results

5k results overall:

• Hunter Jacobson, 12, 21:04

• Mike Bang, 30, Red Wing, 21:25

• Ryan Anne Magliarditi, 41, Plano, Texas, 21:44

10k results overall:

• Nicholas Windschill, 38, St. Paul, 38:11

• Addison Peters, 16, Ellsworth, 38:48

• Wade Bergner, 52, Maiden Rock, 39:57

Cheese curd eating contest results

• Ages 8-11: Levi Lorentz, 2:52

• Ages 12-15: Sam McCulley, 1:27

• Mens: Alex Smrekar, :54

• Womens: Kelly Chies, 1:47

• 2 person relay: Alex Smrekar & Wade Miller, 1:42

Rachel Helgeson

Rachel Helgeson

(651) 301-7864