PITTSFIELD — The Maine Cheese Festival returned to town this weekend, attracting visitors from near and far.

The weather was cool Sunday at Manson Park, where the festival was held, and although it was mostly overcast, the overall mood was far from gray.

Hosted by the Maine Cheese Guild, the festival drew cheesemakers from around the state, as well as food truck entrepreneurs and other cheese-related vendors who offered goods like bread, crackers and olive oil.

“Our mission is to come together to provide education, foster the love of cheese and promote our incredible cheesemakers,” said Maine Cheese Guild president Holly Aker. “There are true artists and cheesemakers here who utilize the highest quality milk from the best breeds of cows, goats, sheep, and Buffalo, all fed on Maine’s lush grasses.”

In past years the festival had moved around the state, but organizers said they wanted to return to Pittsfield, where the festival was held in 2019. They preferred an area they knew as they reworked logistics with an eye on the pandemic. Booths were placed at a distance from each other, hand sanitizer was provided and the festival was split into two sessions to spread attendance.

None of the changes seemed to affect the popularity of the event. The morning session sold out several days in advance.

Denise O’Connell drove down from Bangor to attend the festival. She’d heard about the event last weekend and was looking forward to stopping by the Maine Grains booth, getting Manchego cheese from Silver Moon and cheddar from the Balfour Farms booth.

Dorothy Brunskill came from farther away. She is from Missouri, but has been staying in New Hampshire and traveling around New England. Brunskill came across a mention of the festival online and decided to stop by. She said the festival was “wonderful” and she couldn’t pick a favorite booth. “They’re all really lovely,” Brunskill said.

Aker spoke at the start of the morning session, as did Amanda Beal, the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Commissioner. Beal grew up on a commercial dairy farm in Litchfield.

“I really want to commend all of our cheesemakers here for your tenacity and determination in dealing with the unforeseen challenges and changes that you’ve navigated through since the last festival,” Beal said.

Cheerfulness prevailed. Live music kept the crowd entertained, and volunteers dressed as “cheese fairies” handed out complimentary cheese samples to attendees — provided in a lunch bag imprinted with the Maine Cheese Guild logo.

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