Your Ultimate Guide To Lowville’s Cream Cheese Festival
You put it on your bagels, make cakes out of it and, in some cases, pair it with salmon to make a killer frittata. But, is cream cheese good enough to make you want to have a celebration in its honor? Well, the people of Lowville seem to think so. They have been proudly displaying the joy of cream cheese for the past seven years, during its annual Cream Cheese Festival.
Located one hour north of Utica on Route 12, Lowville shuts down some of its streets for one day to pay homage to an iconic factory that produces the sweet, squishy cheese. But, for those familiar with the event, nothing compares to the fun. Voted by TripAdvisor as one of its “top ten wackiest summer events,” the Cream Cheese Festival draws more than 10,000 people to Lowville to take part in the action.
Now in it’s eighth year, this Saturday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m., the festival celebrates both the product and Kraft Foods, the company whose plant sits proudly in the small community of less than 4,000.
Mayor Donna Smith recalls the first year they decided to hold the festival.
“The first year they ever made the cheesecake, it was quite entertaining because they didn’t figure out how many graham crackers they needed to make the crust,” “They had to go and buy all of the graham crackers they could find to make their crust from Tops.”
Since then, things have gone much more smoothly. Volunteers help out during the week to prepare the town for the event, hanging cords, running lights and setting up the venue for the thousands that come to take part in the fun. During they day, they perform other tasks like running contests and doing the tear down afterwards.
This year’s focus, as always, is on the giant cheesecake Kraft provides for those attending. According to Chris Pomerville, the Business Unit Manager at the Lowville plant, about 75 employees will help build an 8 by 20 foot cheesecake capable of serving 3,200 people. Using Nabisco graham crackers as a sturdy base, she says Philadelphia ready-to-eat cheesecake filling is slathered on top, creating a delicious dessert to win over the heart of even the most diet-conscious guest.
“We’re always very excited about the annual Cream Cheese Festival,” Pomerville said. “Our Lowville facility is the largest maker of Philadelphia cream cheese in the United States and the world, so we love this festival!”
Kraft’s involvement doesn’t end at the cheesecake.
“They have been an incredible supporter for our festival, providing the cheesecake, giving us a monetary donation and they provide all of the cream cheese that gets tossed that day, eaten that day… everything of that nature,” Smith said. “They are an incredible supporter of our festival and they’re obviously quite excited to be the focus of the festival!”
Pomerville agrees. She says the employees are proud to be a part of such a well-known and wacky event.
“This is a project our employees are happy to be part of, and dozens of employees get involved in the festival as part of Kraft, or on their own,” Pomerville said.
For those looking to have a good time, there are plenty of cream cheese contests to get involved in. Smith, who also serves on the Cream Cheese Festival Committee, is in charge of events and has a full schedule lined up.
Among the competitions are individual and team events, including the two person “Fill Your Friend’s Face” eating contest and a good old-fashioned Cream Cheese toss. There’s also mini tractor pulls, milk tray relays, dress up contests and the ever-popular cream cheese bingo.
Music will also abound, as several acts take the stage, including Cubby the Clown, the Panigma Steel Band, the Nelson Brothers Band and the Todd Hobin Band. For the duration of the festival, anyone who wants to hear great music can stop at any of their free on-stage performances.
Other activities include a park with air rides and a cream cheese recipe contest. Also featured this year is the cream cheese mural. While people are waiting in line for their piece of cake, they can use colored whipped cream cheese to paint a picture on a massive wall. With so many things to do, there is something available for everyone.
For as much hard work as it is to put on such an event every year, at the end of the day, Smith says it’s a fun ride. But, preparations will already start for next year.
“It’s just so much fun,” Smith said. “It’s almost like planning your wedding every year. It’s so much work, but then you have that day and it’s all worth it.”
To check out the event or for more information and a full schedule, visit the Cream Cheese Festival’s website here.