Top of the Morning, Aug. 28, 2014
The celebratory first cutting of the cheese?
That'll be a breeze, Viola Jess said. It's what comes after that has the unassuming 60-year-old a nervous Nellie ahead of this weekend's Arthur Amish Country Cheese Festival.
"If I'm required to talk, that might be a problem," she said. "I won't be giving a speech."
Cutting the cheese at the 42-year-old festival is a big deal, kind of like throwing out the first pitch before the Cubs season-opener. The 10 a.m. Saturday slicing signals the official start of one of the area's more popular — and certainly unique — parties, put on to celebrate the area's cheese production.
"I guess I'm considered a celeb now, even though I don't feel like one," said Jess, owner of The Country Cheese and More in downtown Arthur. "I guess I can handle it for one day."
Jess got the nod for her loyal involvement over the years. Among her many contributions is supplying the 300-pound wheel of cheddar cheese that is sliced and diced and given away over three days.
"It's gigantic, enormous, heavy," festival chairman Sharon Daily said. "It looks like the sun on a cloudy day, a yellow wine barrel."
In the That's Weird department, it has company. Like ...
— The International Cheese Curling Team Championship. "Two people will take turns either siding, rolling or throwing a 4-pound wheel of cheese down a smooth nylon surface with a four-part bull's-eye at one end," organizer Linda Ingles said. "The other two players take turns using a broom to coax that wheel toward the bull's-eye. It is great fun."
— The 14th Cheese Eating Nationals. The record time to devour a 1-pound block: 31/2 minutes, Daily said. "We provide water and garbage cans if needed — if you get my drift," she said.
— A 60-foot sandwich. "It consists of 30 two-foot buns, 25 pounds of turkey, eight heads of lettuce, 10 pounds of tomatoes and 20 pounds of cheddar cheese," Ingles said. "It is assembled, cut into 1-inch slices and serves approximately 600 people."
— The World Cheese Curd Spitting Championship. "Try spitting frozen lima beans," Ingles said when I asked her how one practices. "Size and weight should be similar to cheese curds. This would best be done outside, or if inside, be sure Mom and Dad aren't around."