It's all about cheese: Hundreds turn out for Cheshire festival

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Editor's note: This article was updated on July 31, 2017, to clarify that a small statue shaped like the cider press used to make the "Mammoth Cheese" stands on display in Cheshire, not the actual cider press. 

PHOTO GALLERY | Cheshire Cheese Fest

CHESHIRE — There was a lot more than cheese at the inaugural Cheshire Cheese Festival.

More than 600 people visited the Cheshire Elementary School on Saturday afternoon to partake in cheeses, hot dogs, hamburgers, barbecued chicken and soft drinks. In addition, there were a host of children's activities, including a hula hoop contest, rock climbing and face painting, as well as a host of crafts booths.

"This has exceeded expectations," said Leah Kruszyna, who planned the event with husband Justin. Actually, attendance was surely more than 600, as that was Leah Kruszyna's estimate as of 1:40 p.m. The event was scheduled to run until 4 p.m.

Indeed, cars spilled over from the parking lot of the school into a nearby church. People were parking on the side of the road by about 2 p.m.

The event is in honor of one of the more iconic gifts to an American president in county — and national — history: A 1,235-pound cheese that was created in 1801 and eventually made its way to WashingtonD.C. A small statue shaped like the cheese press — a tribute to Leland and the "Mammoth Cheese" — can be found on the corner of School and Main streets in Cheshire.

Justin Kruszyna said he and his wife came up with the cheese festival as a way to bring visitors to the town.

"We wanted to raise awareness of Cheshire," he said. "We want to give people a reason to come here."

There were 42 vendors at Saturday's event, including several vendors selling cheese. This included Berkshire Blue Cheese out of Great Barrington. James Golden and Jessica Wells are the owners, having purchased the business in 2015.

"Berkshire Blue cheese is known for it's purity. It is made," said Wells, "with 100 percent Jersey milk."

The duo were passing out samples to the crowd and taking orders.

Across the way from Berkshire Blue Cheese, Whitney's Farm Stand of Cheshire offered several cheeses, as well as their farm's sweet corn and barbecued chicken. The farm stand offered several cheddar cheeses from Vermont manufacturers, as well as cheeses from Grafton Village, according to Michelle Whitney, one of the farm's owners.

"We're really happy with the turnout," said Whitney. "We've been pretty busy all day."

There were a couple old-timers watching the activities, residents Dale Grimshaw and Tom Zappula. Grimshaw was impressed with the turnout, while Zappula was admittedly a little surprised.

"I thought it might end up being inside," said Zappula, referring to the earlier cloudiness in the morning. "But it's a nice day and a lot of people came out."

It was very much a kid's day, with a 20-foot rock-climbing wall, the aforementioned hula hoop contest, several of those bouncy structures, which enable children to climb on and jump around atop. One young lady of eight, shyly admitted the bouncy rooms were "really fun." She declined to give her name and her mother told her she did not have to. Which was fair.

The Kruszynas planned the event in four months, which, Justin admitted, should have been longer.

"But," said his wife, "We're going to start planning next year's Cheese Fest tonight!"

Reach staff writer Derek Gentile at 413-629-4621.


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