Cheese-lovers became taste-testers Saturday afternoon at Main Street Wellington’s 15th Annual Heritage Cheese Festival.
The first 30 people to take a seat in front of the Firehouse Stage became judges and helped decide which local restaurant would win the People’s Choice Award in the first-ever “Iron Chef” Battle of Cheese competition.
East of Chicago Pizza, Fort’s Old Towne Tavern, Red Iron Bar & Grill, Checker’s Pizza, Big Dog Catering, and Dog Tracks Diner participated. Wellington Schools superintendent Dennis Mock, village manager Steve Pyles, and Andy Arntz (husband of Main Street Wellington director Jennifer Arntz) served as judges.
Fort’s Tavern won the hearts of the judges and received a plaque for its hors d’oeurve, including a phyllo cup, feta cheese, blackberry jam and a mini shrimp. Big Dog Catering won the people’s vote with its cheesy potatoes.
The annual Cheesecake Bake-Off and auction also proved popular, raking in $284 to fund future Main Street community events.
Other new Cheese Festival attractions included cow patty bingo, kids games, and a 4-H band performance.
One of the most popular vendor tents of the day was Heini’s Cheese Chalet. The business is based in Berlin, Ohio, and uses milk provided by Amish farmers to produce its cheese.
Bill Speicher ran the booth with Robin Moore and provided free cheese samples displayed in carved out bread for attendees.
Speicher said he’s had a booth at the Cheese Festival the past 12 years. A couple of the more special cheeses he was able to offer this year were an Amish-made spreadable feta and an aged sharp cheddar.
Jennifer Arntz said she spent at least 30 hours a week planning the festival since she was hired at the end of May to head Main Street’s operations.
“I am really coming from a place of excitement and appreciation,” she said. “I appreciate all of the volunteers and all of the people who came out to attend the event and I’m excited because a lot of the people who attended the event and even helped are excited, so I’m kind of feeding off of their excitement.”
“I’m just happy people are here and having fun,” Arntz said. “It makes me very happy to be back in my hometown.”
The Cheese Festival is one of the biggest events Main Street puts on and it was Arntz’s first major project since joining the organization.
“All of this was totally worth it,” she said. “Being exhausted and working lots of hours is totally worth it when I can feel that I’m home and making people happy.”
Kelsey Leyva can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @TWE_KelseyLeyva on Twitter.
Photos by Kelsey Leyva | Wellington Enterprise Robyn and Don Harris take a cheesy photo at the Main Street Wellington booth. The couple is from Grafton, Ohio.