Cheese Curd Festival named #3 Best Specialty Food Festival

Pierce County Journal newsroom
Posted 4/17/24

The Ellsworth Cheese Curd Festival has been recognized as the #3 Best Specialty Food Festival in the USA Today’s 10Best Competition.

Kim Beebe, an Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Cheese Curd Festival named #3 Best Specialty Food Festival


The Ellsworth Cheese Curd Festival has been recognized as the #3 Best Specialty Food Festival in the USA Today’s 10Best Competition.

Kim Beebe, an Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce executive team member and Cheese Curd Festival Committee member, sat down with the Journal for a Q&A on the recognition.

How does it feel for the Cheese Curd Festival to be recognized as the #3 Best Specialty Food Festival in the USA Today's 10Best Competition?

We're thrilled and honored to have the Cheese Curd Festival named the #3 Best Specialty Food Festival in the USA Today's 10Best Competition! It's a testament to the hard work and dedication of our committee, membership and volunteers, as well as the incredible support from Cheese Curd Festival guests.

Being recognized on a national level reaffirms our belief in the uniqueness and quality of our festival. We couldn't be prouder to showcase the delicious flavors and vibrant culture of the Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin! We're excited to continue spreading the cheesy joy to even more visitors in the future!

What do you believe sets the Cheese Curd Festival apart from other specialty food festivals?

What sets the Cheese Curd Festival apart from other specialty food festivals is that we are the official Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin and thanks to our world renown Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery, our town has been given this claim to fame.

However, we know it takes more than curds alone so our focus is celebrating not just cheese curds, but also the rich cultural heritage and community spirit of Ellsworth. Our festival isn't just about indulging in delicious food (although that's certainly a highlight!), it's about creating unforgettable experiences for our attendees, supporting local businesses, and giving back to our community through initiatives like our Festival Volunteer Program.

From the abundance of cheese curds and creative cheese curd dishes and tasting experiences, to the entertainment lineup and intimate location in our East End business district, the Cheese Curd Festival is something special and unique. The combination of food, lively atmosphere, and genuine small-town community spirit that makes our festival stand out among the rest.

Can you provide some insight into the process behind the festival's nomination and selection for this prestigious ranking?
The nomination and selection process for the Cheese Curd Festival's recognition in the USA Today's 10Best Competition was both rigorous and exciting. Initially, a panel of experts curated a list of top food festivals from across the country. Once the panel narrowed the list of nominees to 20, it was up to readers to cast their votes and determine the final rankings.

The competition was stiff, and the Cheese Curd Festival had some major competition, competing against nationally recognized and infamous festivals such as Maine Lobster Fest, Waikiki’s Spam Jam, Chicago’s Windy City Smokeout, and Picklesburg in Pittsburgh.

We watched the leaderboard closely throughout the voting processing and saw the Cheese Curd Festival advancing up the board to #2, and at times even #1! We thank our dedicated supporters and community members who rallied behind us. Ultimately, it was their overwhelming support and enthusiasm that secured our spot as the #3 Best Specialty Food Festival in the nation, making this recognition all the more meaningful and special to us.

How do you think this recognition will impact the festival's future, including attendance and community engagement?

Receiving this kind of national recognition is invaluable. We could only dream for the kind of budget that would pay for this kind of earned media! Being named #3 Best Specialty Food Festival in the nation validates the hard work that goes into the event by so many people and also shines a spotlight on our festival, attracting even more attention and interest from both local residents and visitors alike.

We anticipate that this heightened visibility will lead to increased attendance as people from across the region are drawn to experience the festival firsthand. Additionally, we expect this recognition to strengthen the sense of pride and excitement among community residents, businesses, and volunteers.

What are some of the key attractions or highlights of the Cheese Curd Festival that you think contributed to its success in the competition?

There are several things that set the event apart. Obviously, cheese curds top the list. They have a bit of a cult following, and the fact that we make them right here in Ellsworth is huge for cheese curd fans.

Attendees also enjoy the wide array of unique and creative cheese curd dishes. From sweet to savory, people like trying all the different cheese curd food offerings. They also enjoy experiencing all the foods at the festival in new ways, which is why our tasting events, like Craft & Curd and the Cheese Block Party, are so popular.

The location of the event is also a big draw. Attendees are always commenting on the intimate space, friendly people, and overall vibe of the event. The Festival Volunteer Program that supports local non-profit organizations, also resonates with attendees and fosters a sense of pride and connection to the festival.

Overall, I would have to say it's this combination of the delicious food, the unique location, lively entertainment, and genuine community spirit that has contributed to the Cheese Curd Festival's success. The festival showcases the hospitality of our community!

How does the festival showcase the unique flavors and culture of Ellsworth, particularly in relation to cheese curds and dairy products?

At the Cheese Curd Festival, we go beyond just celebrating cheese curds—we offer a diverse range of tasting experiences that showcase the unique flavors and culture of the region, particularly in relation to cheese and dairy. Our Block Party cheese tasting, provide attendees with an immersive journey through Wisconsin's rich dairy heritage by interacting with cheese experts who share the stories behind over 30 different artisan cheeses. At Corks & Kegs, guests can indulge in unlimited sampling of regionally crafted beer, wine, and hard cider, many sourced from within a 40-mile radius of the festival, all while mingling with fellow enthusiasts. Craft & Curd Paired takes the experience a step further, as local breweries compete to create the perfect brew and cheese curd flavor pairing, allowing attendees to act as judges in this intense competition. And for those with a sweet tooth, our Milk & Cookie Pairing and Ice Cream Tasting events are delicious and fun for all ages. Through these tasting experiences, the Cheese Curd Festival celebrates our region’s foods and pays homage to the agricultural heritage that has shaped our community for generations.

Can you share any memorable moments or experiences from past festivals that you believe contributed to the festival's positive reputation?

For the Cheese Curd Festival Committee, the little things are big things. It’s the details and unique touches that make a lasting impression on attendees. Attendees arrive on the shuttle buses and the first thing they see is a big welcome display. They always stop for a selfie. We have a festival mural—everyone grabs a marker and adds their creative touch. They stick a pin in the map to show how far they’ve traveled to be here for the event and are shocked to see every continent (except for Antarctica) represented! The kids playing with the straw bales and corn in the kids’ playland area, laughing and in a moment of pure joy. Competing in the Cheese Curd Eating Contest, because even if you don’t win, you get to say you tried. Those are the moments people remember and hold on to after they head home.

How does the festival contribute to the local economy and community development in Ellsworth?

The Cheese Curd Festival plays a pivotal role in contributing to the local economy and community development in Ellsworth in several ways. The festival serves as a major economic driver by attracting visitors from near and far, who in turn patronize local businesses such as restaurants, shops, and accommodations, stimulating spending and generating revenue for the community. The event’s economic impact is estimated by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism each year to be $2.55 million.
Additionally, the festival provides a platform for local artisans, vendors, and businesses to showcase their products and services, fostering entrepreneurship and supporting the growth of small businesses within Ellsworth.
Proceeds from the festival are reinvested back into the community through initiatives such as the Festival Volunteer Program, which supports local non-profit organizations and contributes to the overall well-being and vitality of Ellsworth.
The Cheese Curd Festival not only celebrates the rich culture and culinary heritage of our town but also serves as a catalyst for economic growth, community engagement, and development in Ellsworth.

What message would you like to convey to attendees, sponsors, and supporters of the Cheese Curd Festival considering this achievement?

As we celebrate this achievement, we are reminded of the number of people in our community who make this event possible and have helped it grow into what it is today. To our committee, sponsors, members, volunteers, supporters, and guests, we thank you for the role you play making the event possible each year. We look forward to welcoming everyone back to this year's festival on June 21 and 22, 2024, as we continue to create unforgettable memories and celebrate the delicious flavors and vibrant culture of Ellsworth.

Cheese Curd Festival, #3 Best Specialty Food Festival, USA Today's 10Best Competition, Ellsworth, Wisconsin