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SAY CHEESE: The 39th Annual Watonga Cheese & Wine Festival promises to be cheddar than ever

Image via Watonga Chamber of Commerce
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WATONGA, Okla. -- Even though the famed Watonga Cheese Factory is no longer located in the town that bares its name—in 2010 it relocated to Perryton, Texas—that hasn’t stopped the small town from celebrating the foodstuff that put them on the map.

Now in its 39th year, the Watonga Cheese and Wine Festival (originally known as the Watonga Cheese Festival) started off as a showcase for the northwest Oklahoma town’s legendary cheese industry.

Although the cheese factory is longer there, currently the festival thrives with family entertainment, fine art shows, shopping, biking and running events, traditional cheese tasting and cooking contests and wine festival competitions and tastings.

“This is a small town festival that was started to celebrate our namesake cheese, and ended up being a pretty cool deal in this part of the state,” said Sharon Queenie, Watonga Cheese & Wine Festival coordinator. “Our goal is to re-energize the festival and share two days of small town fun, entertainment, culture, service, and cheese with everyone from Watonga to wherever.”

The 2015 Watonga Cheese and Wine Festival will be held 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Oct. 9th and 10th on Main Street and at the Watonga Armory in downtown Watonga. Admission to the festival is $5 and wrist-bands ($10) are needed to get into most of the attractions including the vendor tent, armory vendors, cheese tasting, art show, fiber arts show, quilt show and wine tasting.

When asked why the festival has managed to stay successful, even after the factory left, Queenie had one word: volunteers.

“One of the biggest and most important reasons the festivals continues every year are our volunteers,” Queenie said. “We have a lot of volunteers in Watonga that are passionate about the cheese festival and we appreciate their service to the community and our state. They know that it’s a time for our community to get together and celebrate this special history we have.”

Expecting a crowd of up to 8,000 people, in addition to the famed cheese tastings featuring a wide-range of cheese-related activities, including cooking contests all throughout the downtown area, the two-day festival also features an appearance from 2015 Ms. Indian Oklahoma Carmen “Pretty Horses” Sankey, as well as Native American dance and drum troops concluding with a benefit dance-off.

“We have also added to our festival, for example, an art show,” Queenie said. “We at the Chamber of Commerce have recognized a lot of young artists that are talented, so we waived the fee for anyone 18 years or younger to participate in the show. We’ve also added a new category of Native American artwork as well.”

There is also the 35th annual Great Rat Race featuring a fun run, 5K and 10K competitive running events, not to mention a parade, live music, crafts, a quilt show, food and beverage options and a wine competition with  11 Oklahoma wineries entering 60 wines for judging, with professional and festival patrons voting for their favorite wines.

And, on a final note, Queenie added that OU football fans don’t need to fear missing the big game, as they’ve got it covered at the festival.

“You’re at a festival, you’ll have all the festivals foods, you’ll have entertainment, but you’ll also have an option to watch the game,” Queenie said. “The OU-Texas football game will be shown via big screens throughout the festival grounds. We’ve also partnered with the local bowling alley and they will have the big game on. If you want to sit down and watch the game and have a beverage, you can, or you can just sit there and have your family take a break from the festival and go bowling.”

For more info about the event, visit www.watongacheesefestival.com.

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Louis Fowler

Güicho. Gadfly. Chicano. Choctaw. Cristero. Freelancer. Leftist. Activist. Vilified. PKD....

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