Crystal Palace hosts showcase of Canadian cheese
Thousands of visitors poured in to Picton on the weekend for the seventh annual Great Canadian Cheese Festival. For two full days, cheese lovers could indulge in their passion, with hundreds of different cheeses available for tasting and purchase, as well as having a broad selection of wine and artisanal foods to choose from. There were long lineups to sample award-winning cheeses, organically produced charcuterie and to taste Canadian wine and spirits. The Community Centre hosted several much sought after seminars on pairings of cheese with wines, spirits, beers or ciders—many disappointed attendees had to be turned away as the tables were filled to capacity.
It was estimated that over 5,000 people attended the festival, which was spread out over the Crystal Palace, the curling rink and community centre, as well as pavilion tents in the fairgrounds. There were over thirty cheesemakers on site, selling cheeses made cow, goat, sheep and water buffalo milk. From fresh creamy curds to well-aged cheddars, there was something to cater to every taste. In addition, over three dozen artisanal food producers had free samples for tasting as well as products for sale. A food court featuring burgers, ice cream and Jamie Kennedy fries satisfied those who worked up an appetite at the show—although it seemed that the volume of samples on offer could have been sufficient for most. A new spirits maker, King’s Lock Craft Distillery, offered free tastings and would have had many buyers were they able to sell their products at the festival.
The show has become very much of a spring fixture, attracting enthusiastic return visitors and serving as a social gathering venue. Friends Lorraine Seguin and Jen Murray of Kingston—who call themselves the Gemini sisters—have birthdays one day apart close to the date of the cheese festival, and make a point of coming there to celebrate. “It’s a great event, and I love to support it by buying from local farmers,” said Seguin. The Visentin family used the festival for a reunion. The family—which boasts speakers of six different languages, including Hebrew and German—is spread out from Niagara Falls to Montreal, and chose the County and this festival to come together. “Besides, everyone is crazy for cheese,” said the family patriarch.