Ellsworth is the Cheese Curd Capital of Wisconsin, so it’s only natural that they would be the home of the annual Cheese Curd Festival. It happens this year on Friday and Saturday, June 24th and 25th, at Ellsworth’s East End Park. What are cheese curds? When rennet is added to milk to make cheese, the milk separates into curds and whey. The whey is drained off, leaving curds, which are pressed into blocks or wheels to start the cheddar cheese process. If you don’t press them into cheddar, you’ve got bite-size nuggets of fresh cheese without any of the bite of aged cheese, boasting fresh dairy flavors and salt, mostly. Their most famous characteristic? They squeak between the teeth when you eat ’em!
You can often find cheese curds wherever there’s a cheese industry but nobody loves them like the folks of Wisconsin do. They can be eaten cold, fresh from the bag, for maximum squeakitude, or they can be breaded or battered and deep-fried, for crunch and gooeyness. At the Cheese Curd Festival, you’ll find them served both ways, although it should be noted that the fried curds will be hand-dipped (many of the curds you’ll find around the state come pre-breaded from the factory), and they’ll be served with “gourmet dipping sauces.”
Want to extend you curd horizons? This festival will help you along. How about some cinnamon and sugar fried cheese curds, a Cheese Curd Festival exclusive? If that’s not enough, the food vendors have been encouraged to come up with curd-themed delicacies, so you’re likely to find cheese curd pizzas, cheese curd brats, poutine, maybe a cheese curd-studded kabob, and who knows what else. You’re sure to develop a whole new appreciation for the squeaky nuggets!
There are six age categories for the cheese curd eating contest, with trophies and cash prizes. The Saturday morning pancake breakfast tradition continues, hosted by the Stockwell family of Ellsworth’s S&S Sugarbush, featuring their own real maple syrup. Don’t miss the pie and cheese curd dessert contest and auction. New this year is an event called Corks & Kegs, featuring tastings of two dozen beers, ciders, and wines.
Live music, heavy on the tribute bands, will play through both evenings. Other events include 5K and 10K runs, a basketball tournament, a cruise-in and car show, crafts, and a parade. Plenty of kids’ activities, too. Check the festival website for all the details.