It was fun while it lasted, Cheese Heritage Festival.
The village said its final goodbyes to the Main Street Wellington event Friday and Saturday at a packed Howk Memorial Park, with vendors stretching well beyond First United Methodist Church on South Main Street.
Music by KK Farnsworth and the Wellington Farmers Market helped kick things off Friday evening before Disney princesses Ariel and Belle greeted guests the following day, followed of course by the traditional cheesecake auction and parade.
Barney Hartman of Pittsfield Township has served as cheesecake auctioneer for 16 of the 17 years the festival has existed. He has a fairly good excuse for that one missed date, though — his 40th wedding anniversary and son’s wedding fell on the same weekend.
“I’m going to miss this,” he said. “It’s been a good bunch of folks.”
Hartman said he’s seen cheesecakes sell for more than $80 over the years and that one can still command between $50 and $60.
“It’s a great fundraiser,” he said. “There’s so many local residents who’ve put their passion and hearts into it. Carol Griffith is one who was there the first year and has made them every year since.”
Retired Enterprise publisher Ken Carpenter, a longtime Wellington resident now living in Florida, was happy to visit in time for the last festival and said scheduling might have played a role in the event’s cancellation and planned revamp.
“We miss the amount of comradery there was between the residents and the community,” he said. “The parade used to be an hour long. It’s still very nice but it’s smaller. There’s too many other outside attractions this time of year. There’s all the tournaments this time of the year too — too much stuff going on. People only have so much time.”
The Main Street Wellington board voted April 25 to end the event and possibly rebrand, citing a shrinking number of vendors as well as hot summer temperatures that make it difficult to display cheese.
The Cheese Fest was shortened to two days this year. It’s paid tribute to Wellington’s days as the country’s leading cheese manufacturer in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1878, Wellington shipped 6.4 million pounds of cheese and 1.1 million pounds of butter across the United States and abroad.
No definitive plans have been made for rebranding, but flyers were passed out Saturday during the parade for a “Dog Days of Summer” Main Street event on July 1, 2018, advertising canine-friendly vendors, games, food, and competitions.
Main Street director Jenny Arntz has said a fall harvest-themed festival is being planned as well, but details are few.
Pati Shellhouse, the board’s vice chair, said scheduling the festival later in the year seems to be a focus.
“I’ll miss all these people I see and all the nice vendors that are here,” she said. “The food and the people are always the best every year. There’s lots of things on the table for what will come but nothing has been decided. They’re talking about something in the fall. It could be something similar to the cheese festival, but just in the fall.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.