ELLSWORTH — The Cheese Curd unFestival proved to be unexpectedly successful, you might say. Virtual events ran July 20-27, but the big winner was Saturday's drive-thru event.
People pulled up in two lanes outside Ellsworth Creamery, choosing between three deep-fried varieties priced at $7 each — or three for $20 — and two fresh curd flavors at $5 a bag ... or driving away with all five for $30.
"We started with 1,000 pounds, but ran out and needed to pull more from the Creamery," said Becky Beissel with the Ellsworth Chamber of Commerce.
On Monday morning, she wasn't sure just how much more. A little after 3:30 p.m. she had the answer: 2,912 pounds sold during the eight-hour event.
The year opened with high hopes for the 2020 Cheese Curd Festival. In 2018, a reimagined festival with state grant support resulted in a crowd surge six times higher than the 2,500-3,000 of previous years. An estimated 30,000 people came in 2019 and ate 5,000 pounds of cheese curds over two days.
Entertainment, craft beers and a plethora of cheesy dishes — in addition to the regular, pizza and cinnamon sugar curds — were planned this year, but then on April 4, the organizers canceled the festival because of the pandemic. By early summer, however, they had a new vision for the unFestival.
The Cheese Curd Festival has been the major fundraiser for the community. According to the Ellsworth Area Chamber of Commerce, cancellation equated to a $2.55 million economic hit, including $20,000 for local nonprofits. The unFestival's goal was to raise $30,000 to fill those coffers while also celebrating the village's title as Wisconsin's Cheese Curd Capital.
The chamber won't know how much money the uncommon festival raised until online store revenues and virtual donations are tallied later this summer. Here's one thing they do know, however: The curds sell uncommonly well festival or unFestival.