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WATONGA CHEESE FESTIVAL

In 1976 the president of the Watonga Chamber of Commerce, under advisement by a recently formed community development team to form a festival promoting a local food product, started Oklahoma's best-known festivals. The planners designed the event to bring recognition and tourism to the town. Watonga, having the only cheese factory in Oklahoma, made the logical choice of celebrating cheese.

On the second Friday and Saturday in October thousands of people have come to Watonga to celebrate not only cheese but the community as well. This festival has usually comprised more than two hundred craft booths, arts, antiques, and a flea market. The Oklahoma Arts Council has usually assisted with an art show. A cheese-tasting line, food contest, parade, living history, and quilt shows, along with good food and entertainment round out the festival. The celebration also hosts a five-kilometer "rat race" and one-mile fun run "mouse walk."

The Watonga Cheese Factory, which opened in 1941 for business, offers public tours. Here visitors may purchase different types of cheese and other "made in Oklahoma" products. This product-centered community event has grown to be a popular Oklahoma tradition.

SEE ALSO: DAIRY INDUSTRY, FAIRS, FESTIVALS, FOLKLIFE.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Billie Roane, "Watonga Cheese Festival," Vertical File, Watonga Chamber of Commerce, Watonga, Oklahoma. "Watonga Tourism Information," Vertical File, Watonga Chamber of Commerce, Watonga, Oklahoma.

Richenda Davis Bates

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