BY TYLER BATTEN
Apple and cheese is at the heart of any southern Ontario Mennonite community. For some, it is considered a lifeblood on which many communities thrive. This is so true for the village of Wellesley that the unlikely pairing has witnessed an annual festival in their honour steadily grow for the past 38 years.
The Wellesley Apple Butter and Cheese festival took place Sept. 28.
Besides the obligatory craft vendors, antique car show, tractor rides and smorgasbord of colloquial culinary cuisine, the festival featured music from all genres, a puppet show for the kids, a friendly 5- km run, a quilt auction, steam-powered engines of all sorts, a model boat regatta, pony rides and live clogging — a type of folk tap dance.
The air was filled with the essence of apple-cinnamon and sounds of joy – children laughing, people sharing stories and simple music.
The festival was created in 1975 when the Wellesley District Board of Trade was fundraising to build a new $350,000 arena and community centre.
Wellesley Brand Apple Products and the J.M. Schneider cheese factory partnered in the creation of the festival to raise funds for the project.
The festival was modelled after the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival and the New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale which are two very popular events in their own right.
Since the festival’s inception all of the proceeds have gone toward community building projects for the Village of Wellesley. A large portion of the village volunteers at the event, including players from the Wellesley Apple Jacks — the local junior ice hockey team.
“The crowd was up a bit over last year, which was a very good year for our festival,” said Bob Reid, the festival’s chairman. “Most of our food booths sold out and talking to other vendors, their sales were up. We have to wait until all our bills come in before we find out our profits.”
Apple butter and cheese, rich smells and fine music, history at every corner and happy young families sharing stories with the old, describes not only Wellesley but the many and varied festivals during southern Ontario’s harvest season.
BY TYLER BATTEN