Weather Forecast


Music and cheese curds

This year’s food vendors have all added at least one new cheese curd item to their menu — such as the cheese curd baked potato. Festival attendees are asked to vote for their favorite creation. 1 / 2
Tracy Miller of the group Stilettos will kick off Ellsworth Cheese Curd Festival’s live entertainment when she and the band take the stage Friday June 20. 2 / 2

The annual Ellsworth Cheese Curd Festival features family fun, games, grand parade, a handful of top-notch entertainers – and, don’t forget, the Cheese Curd Eating Contest.

The event, which is coordinated by the Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce, and made possible by support of local business sponsors and hundreds of volunteers, is one of the largest festivals in the area.

“Our main objective for the event is to create a fun, family-friendly, festival that brings the community together,” said Matt Anderson, pastor at CrossRoad Community Church and chamber president. “It takes a heroic effort on the part of many people to make this event happen, and any money left after festival expenses goes right back into the community.”

Past festival proceeds have contributed to beautification efforts throughout the village, as well as the current bathroom renovation at East End Park.

This year’s three-day event with the theme “Welcome to the Big Cheesy” begins Friday June 20 and wraps up Sunday June 22 at East End Park.

Kicking off festival’s live music is Friday’s headliner, Stiletto.

The Maiden Rock-based band plays from 7 to 11 p.m. performing a variety rock show specializing in classics from the 1980s, ’90s and today along with contemporary country.

Group members include Tracy Miller on vocals and keyboard, Jeff Miller on guitar and vocals, Al Budensiek on bass and vocals, Steve Gustafson on drums and Jeff Eckblad on guitar.

Rounding out the festival’s artists is Twin Cities-based band So Big, taking the stage 7 to 11 p.m. Saturday. Hear a variety of classic rock, current rock and country rock music.

The band includes Nicole Holzinger on lead vocals and harmonies; Tood Holzinger on lead vocals, harmonies and keyboard; Jim White on lead vocals, harmonies and bass; Rick Johnson on lead guitar and Christian Dady on drums.

In addition to the two main acts, several acoustic performances will also be featured throughout the weekend. 

Two local families including brothers Thaddeus and Cedric Kosnopfal entertain followed by sisters Christina and Hannah Kowalchyk. The two sets of musicians are featured from 11 a.m. to noon Saturday.

Another Ellsworth teen, Brooke Thoen, performs at the main stage from 11 a.m. to noon Sunday. She often performs original music and recently released a song on iTunes. 

Thoen is followed by a returning group from last year’s event – Billy and the Kid. The Eau Claire, Wisconsin, duo plays an afternoon of live music at the park.

How ’bout that cheese

While the wide variety of activities and entertainment over the course of the three days draws large crowds, it’s the curds that take center stage.

“People just can’t get enough cheese curds,” said Paul Bauer, Cheese Curd Festival committee co-chair and CEO and manager of Ellsworth Cooperative Creamery. “Every year we bring in more curds, but what we realized is that attendees weren’t just asking for more quantity, they were asking for more variety in the cheese curd foods at the festival.”

As a result, attendees this year event will not only find fresh and deep-fried cheese curds, but a greater variety of specialties.

A cheese curd dessert category has been added to the pie contest, allowing area bakers to show off their creativity by incorporating curds into their favorite desserts.

One winner will receive a $100 Ellsworth Creamery gift certificate.

All pies and curd desserts will then be auctioned off to the highest bidders with proceeds going to community enhancement projects.

In addition, food vendors have all added at least one unique cheese curd item to their menu. 

“Festival attendees will be asked to take note of their favorite cheese curd foods from our food tent,” said Sarah Ries, Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce executive director. “They will then be asked to cast their vote for their favorite cheese curd food item on the Ellsworth Chamber’s Facebook page.”

The winning vendor will get $200 donated to a charity of his/her choice.

“This is a great way for people to support their favorite charitable organizations and have fun sampling unique and creative cheese curd foods throughout the event,” Ries said.

To see the complete schedule, visit www.

Stacy Bengs-Silverberg

Stacy Bengs has been a photojournalist at the Red Wing Republican Eagle since 2010. She holds a bachelors degree in journalism and art from the University of Minnesota.

(651) 301-7880