Just a short distance east from Lexington, you’ll find the charming, picturesque and welcoming city of Winchester, Kentucky. This community of over 18,000 residents is an excellent option for your next vacation due to the area’s natural beauty, community events, accommodations and fun things to do.
Winchester holds the distinction of being the birthplace of beer cheese spread. Local lore states that a man named John Allman served the first dish of beer cheese spread at the historic Driftwood Inn. He got the recipe from his cousin Joe and it was originally called Snappy Cheese. The influence of beer cheese spread on the city makes it the perfect home for the Beer Cheese Trail. The trail is a tour of eight local restaurants, that feature unique versions of beer cheese spread and different beer cheese dishes. Successfully complete the tour and you're rewarded with a t-shirt and a cheese-themed prize. Due to the focus on beer cheese in the community, this is also the ideal location for the Beer Cheese Festival, which is held each June.
For almost a decade, Beer Cheese Festival has been a big part of the Winchester community. Thousands of people from Winchester and the surrounding communities make their way into the Historic Downtown District for the festival. This a one-of-a-kind festival that celebrates all things beer cheese. Perfect for the entire family or any age in general, this festival has something fun and entertaining for all who attend. At the festival you’ll encounter some great live music being performed by talented local and regional acts. There will be an arts and crafts fair, where you can purchase unique handmade items. There will of course be plenty of beer cheese spread, but also plenty of other food options to choose from. There will be rides and games for the kids and so much more. ResortsandLodges.com got the chance to interview Rachel Alexander, Representative for the Beer Cheese Festival, to find out more about this fun event.
RAL: Tell me a little bit about the event.
RA: This will be the 8th annual festival. Each year, the festival grows in popularity. Last year, an estimated 20,000 visitors came to celebrate with us. We have everyone from toddlers to retirees at the festival, enjoying all it has to offer. My niece was only one year old when she came for the first time and had a ball toddling around Beer Cheese Boulevard. She was covered with beer cheese from head-to-toe and grinning from ear-to-ear at the end of the day.
RAL: What makes this event unique?
RA: It is the one and only beer cheese festival in the world. The main event is Beer Cheese Boulevard ($5 admission) where guests can sample beer cheese made by pros and vote on their favorite for the People’s Choice Award. We usually have between 10-15 pros, who each bring two to five different recipes with them. You can sample each cheese once or a dozen times while trying to decide on your favorite. The cheeses are also judged by a jury for the grand title. Amateur beer cheese crafters can enter their own unique recipe in the juried amateur competition, too. Don’t like beer cheese? No worries! Visit our Arts & Crafts and Kentucky Proud markets, enjoy live music at our two music stages, eat traditional festival food, or shop and dine at our locally owned downtown shops and restaurants (many of which will have fabulous sales and specials throughout the day).
RAL: Take me through a day at the event.
RA: On Friday evening, the festival kicks off with a “street dance,” a beloved local tradition. A DJ spins on the courthouse lawn and the community turns out in droves to dance on Main Street. The main event is Saturday and includes live music, kids rides and games, an Arts & Crafts market, Kentucky Proud market, Trade Show, food court filled with delicious festival foods, beer cheese tasting on Beer Cheese Boulevard, local shops and restaurants.
We have dozens of talented musicians lined up to play our two music stages during the festival. American Idol contestant Lauren Mink will be performing on Main Street in front of the Clark County Courthouse immediately following the festival for Main Street Winchester's Rock the Block, a free summer concert series.
Beer Cheese sampling is the main event. We also have food vendors selling festival food from BBQ to funnel cake. And don’t forget our wonderful downtown restaurants like The Engine House Deli + Pub and Ariel’s Corner Grill.
RAL: Is there maybe one place in particular that guests have been flocking to since the event started?
RA: Festival goers love to camp at the Red River Boat Dock and Campground for a unique experience. Not a camper? Not to worry. Winchester boasts of a Best Western, Comfort Inn, Hampton Inn, Quality Inn, Red Roof Inn and Value Stay all within a five-minute drive of the festival.
RAL: What does the event mean to the community?
RA: The festival is a huge point of pride for the community. Beer cheese is a local invention that has taken the whole country by storm. You can find the local delicacy, a spicy cheese spread made with beer, served from New York to LA these days. The festival is also important to the community as a fundraiser. One hundred percent of the money raised during the festival is reinvested in beautiful downtown Winchester. It provides funds for programming throughout the year.
RAL: Does this drive business to your local economy?
RA: Absolutely! It is the single biggest day of the year for our downtown shops and restaurants. The wealth is also shared across the city as our hotels, gas stations, and restaurants profit from the influx of festival goers.
RAL: Does the event support a special cause in the community?
RA: It supports revitalization efforts in our beautiful downtown, which is particularly important this year as we are currently working on a downtown development master plan and will need extra dollars for implementation in the upcoming years. We are truly planning for the long term success and vibrancy of the cultural and commercial heart of our community.
RAL: Why should people come to your event?
RA: It’s incredibly fun and unique and truly a celebration of our community culture. There is a little something for everyone: beer cheese, music, shopping, food and more. It’s a low cost/no cost event that is fun for all ages.
For more information about the Beer Cheese Festival, please visit their website.