PITTSFIELD — The Maine Cheese Festival returns to town this weekend after the pandemic forced its hiatus last year.

The festival is the primary fundraising event for the Maine Cheese Guild, according to Heather Donahue, chairperson of the festival committee for the guild. She also owns Balfour Farms in Pittsfield with her husband, and will have a booth with the farm’s offerings at the festival.

“One of our main goals is to educate cheesemakers, consumers and cheese lovers across the state of Maine and those outside of Maine about how we have so many wonderful dairy-based businesses that are operating here,” Donahue said.

While the festival normally changes locations, organizers decided that since they were already adjusting the event to the pandemic, they wanted to hold it in a familiar location.

The festival will take place Sunday with two sessions, the first from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the second from 3 to 6 p.m., both at Manson Park, 51 Peltoma Ave., Pittsfield.

Attendees can expect a variety of cheese and cheese-related vendors, several food trucks, and a wine and beer garden. There will be several educational events, including a talk on pairing wine and cheese, advice on cooking with cheese and a question-and-answer session with cheesemakers.

There will be live music in the earlier session from Whippoorwill Wood, and remarks from Maine Cheese Guild President Holly Aker and Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner Amanda Beal.

The day will close with the Maine Cheese Awards at 5 p.m., which will also be live-streamed on Facebook.

The two-session format is one of the main pandemic-related changes to the festival this year. Normally the event is done in one all-day time slot, but in the interest of not overcrowding the space at one time, organizers decided to split it into two sessions, Donahue said.

Additionally, the vendor booths are spread out, hand sanitizer will be available and they are using e-tickets that must be bought ahead of time, so staff don’t have to worry about dealing with cash at the door.

“I think the biggest thing to tell people is that we are being cautious, we have their well-being in consideration as well as that of our vendors,” Donahue said.

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