SKOWHEGAN — The Wesserunsett Arts Council has teamed up with Main Street Skowhegan and the Maine Grain Alliance to form a committee that will plan and execute an expanded version of the Cheese, Brews, and Bread festival, fueled in part by an enterprise grant from the Maine Office of Tourism.

WesArts recently received $3,877 to support the Somerset County Rural Cultural Plan to create a new economic base in central Maine by tapping into assets already in place, creating a destination economy and new jobs along the way.

The 2019 Cheese, Brews, and Bread event will expand from an afternoon of sampling cheese to a full day of local food experiences, demonstrations and workshops that will culminate in a festival in downtown Skowhegan.

The Maine Office of Tourism has awarded more than $46,000 in the Fall 2018 cycle of Tourism Enterprise Grants, designed to fund smaller or focused tourism marketing projects of permanent, nonprofit organizations whose primary purpose is to promote and expand tourism in Maine.

Building recognition for being a local food and beverage hub and a destination for agricultural tourism is the focus of the group, said Mary Haley, project coordinator at Main Street Skowhegan and the Wesserunsett Arts Council.

“A strategy under this objective is to expand our Cheese, Brews, and Bread event from an afternoon of sampling cheese at Bigelow Brewing to a day of local food experiences, demonstrations and workshops,” Haley said. “It will culminate in a festival in downtown Skowhegan, adjacent to the farmers market and Somerset Grist Mill, that will include local vendors offering samples, a cash bar with local beer and wine, music, and a feast of local fare.”

The 2019 event, set for June 15, will provide opportunities for visitors to learn more about where local products come from by experiencing the growing, harvesting, milling, cooking, production, brewing and baking processes firsthand, she said.

“We’re really thankful to have received this grant and are excited to explore the advertising opportunities that will really unlock markets for Skowhegan,” Haley said. “Partnering with two powerhouses like Main Street Skowhegan and the Maine Grain Alliance will maximize the impact of the grant on the event’s marketing plan.”

The 25-page study called the Somerset County Rural Cultural Plan was released in February 2018. Just as the coast of Maine has its own identity for attracting visitors and creating an economy, so does central Maine with its recreation attractions, visual and performing arts, its burgeoning food and beverage hub, farm-to-table movement, its historic assets, and connections to French Canada and Native Americans, all with the mighty Kennebec River roaring at its side, organizers said.

Ongoing events included in the plan are the Skowhegan Moose Festival last June, the annual Skowhegan Craft Brew Festival in September and the upcoming Somerset Snowfest Feb 8-10.

“We intend to take things that are already happening — tours of the Somerset Grist Mill, growing plots of heritage grain, making cheese for market — and enhance them to create experiences that are authentically Somerset County,” Haley said.

The event will have several ticket tiers, including an all-access pass that will get people into all parts of the festival, with unlimited food samples and several drink tickets. Other tiers may include a la carte experiences or vendor food sampling only.

“Promotion will focus on not only bringing people to our region for the event, but also on ensuring that the Skowhegan region is top of the mind any time local food and agriculture are mentioned.” Haley said.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow

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