If you’ve attended the Cheese Curd Festival in the past, you’ll find much that’s familiar with the festival’s event schedule. However, you’ll notice a lot that’s new, too! This year the event can best be described as part food and beer celebration and part music festival. Our goal is to have event attendees get their fill of creative cheese curd dishes and hand-battered deep-fried cheese curds, along with craft beer, regional wines, and hard ciders. Then we want to top it all off with an eclectic mix of music on three stages and interactive tasting experiences for adults and kids, alike.
If you’re new to the Cheese Curd Festival, here’s what’s standing out to our festival regulars and creating quite the buzz…
New Cheese Curds
Last year, under the direction of the Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery fry crew, the Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce brought back hand-dipped deep fried cheese curds to the festival with their Cheese Curd Central booth. The booth also featured a variety of dipping sauces — Not your usual ketchup, they let attendees experiment with horseradish steak sauce, chipotle mustard and more. They also introduced the Cinnamon Sugar Dessert Curd. Exclusive to our festival, if a cheese curd and a mini donut had a love-child, this would be it! Let’s just say, nobody missed the mini donuts.
Both will be back this year, along with a new deep fried cheese curd, which as far as we know has never been done at a festival before! They’ve taken the Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery’s newest cheese curd flavor to create a spin on a popular appetizer. That’s right, new to the festival this year, deep fried Hot Buffalo Cheese Curds! This one will bring a bead of sweat to your brow; a touch of buffalo spice creates a taste that’s both hot and creamy. We’ll be sure to have plenty of Ranch for dipping.
And that’s not all, more professional food vendors will be at the festival this year, serving up their most creative cheese curd dishes!
More details about the festival’s foods can be found here.
Over the past 16 years of the festival, many musical acts have graced the festival stage. The difference this year is more stages and more music! Popular regional musical acts, ranging from solo vocal artists to blues and folk acts, will perform on three stages offering a nearly continuous stream of music.
Mark Andrew, who fans will recognize from season 4 of The Voice and season 14 of American Idol, will perform, as will Mark Healey whose name many will recognize as the bassist for Badfinger. Other regional favorites including Sena Ehrhardt & Cole Allen, Howard Luedtke, Chaunté Shayne, and more!
Don’t miss your favorite act! See the full entertainment schedule here.
After the success of last year’s Corks & Kegs event, we knew we had to add more tasting experiences to the festival’s event schedule. This year we’ve added an additional Corks & Kegs tasting; one for each day of the festival.
In addition, families won’t want to miss the Ice Cream Tasting, a one-hour real dairy flavor celebration featuring creative combinations crafted by the innovative folks from UW-River Falls Food Sciences Department. Sample unique ice cream flavors, including Mooberry Cheese Curd Swirl! Yes, cheese curds in ice cream — we say, don’t knock it until you try it!
Also, of interest to families will be our Milk & Cookie Pairing event. Just like moms and dads do at real wine pairing events, we’ve specially paired four milks with four popular freshly baked cookie flavors to allow the little ones to compare and make their own tasting notes. It will be interesting to see if the classic chocolate chip cookie with whole white milk will survive the test of time, or if one of the other unique pairings will become the new favorite!
You’ll find full tasting experience details and Corks & Kegs ticket details here.
Cheese curds aren’t just for frying. Innovative restaurants and chefs from all over the world incorporate these squeaky white morsels of goodness into their appetizer, entree, and dessert menus. One of the most creative regional cheese curd innovators is Chef Jim Kyndberg, executive chef at FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar at the Radisson Blu in Downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.
We’re excited to have him with us at the festival this year, demonstrating his cheese curd mastery. He’ll be creating a simple three-course menu in the great outdoors, right before your eyes. Sixty miles away from his well-appointed commercial kitchen, using the most basic of cooking equipment, he’ll turn cheese curds (and cheese curd crumbles) into three delicious dishes that you can recreate at home.
Learn more about Chef Kyndberg and his cheese curd menu here.
A Tip of the Hat to our Agricultural Roots
It may be the Cheese Curd Festival, but we’re staying true to our agricultural roots. Let’s face it, if it weren’t for our local farmers, we wouldn’t have this squeaky white cheese to celebrate! For our friends from the Twin Cities, a visit to the Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin will be almost like visiting the farm.
The antique tractor show will be the perfect opportunity to ask questions about farming in the old days and swap a farm memory or two with the farmers in attendance. During the Farmer Meet & Greet, enjoy a milk and cookie break while shaking hands with a real farmer and learning about today’s agriculture and what it takes to put food on the tables of families across America. Both farm and city kids can take part in a sanctioned FFA Pedal Tractor Pull for prizes and a chance to compete at the state tournament! Kids will also love building forts and mazes in the straw-bale playland and rooting around in the corn dig!
You’ll find more about these fun activities here.
There’s so much new to see and do! We hope you’ll join us at East End Park for the biggest cheese curd celebration around!