ELLSWORTH — Cider and cheese pairings anyone? Apparently the answer was yes! The third edition of the annual Downeast Cider and Cheese Festival proved as successful as the past two years despite nearly all of the events happening online.
“It was a good challenge,” said Cara Romano, executive director of Heart of Ellsworth, which organized the three-day celebration, the nonprofit’s only fundraiser this year.
Participants met that challenge, with 75 cider and cheese bags purchased for a virtual tasting on Saturday streamed live on Zoom.
“We actually sold out,” Romano said. She estimated 122 people viewed online events, which included a talk last Friday on the history of cider in Ellsworth and a concert with Gus La Casse and Mathias Kamin on Sunday. “Those numbers were hard-earned.”
Cider pressing was live and in person at Fogtown Brewing Co. on Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening and drew interested observers as it flowed into the evening hours on Sunday.
Heart of Ellsworth had pre-purchased gourmet cheeses from Maine cheesemakers and cider from local brewers, including Fogtown, for its cider and cheese bags. Local apple historian Todd Little-Siebold and Khristopher Hogg of Perennial Cider Bar + Farm Kitchen in Belfast led the virtual tasting.
“The tasting was the most popular [and] the cider pressing was also well attended and successful,” Romano said, noting that about 40 people gathered at the Pine Street brewery on Sunday evening.
Heart of Ellsworth began organizing the festival in 2018, as one way to “put Ellsworth on the map, but more importantly to put Maine on the map to encourage folks to move here,” Romano said.
One out-of-stater, Darlene Olbrys, chimed in on the Heart of Ellsworth Facebook page during the live-streamed concert: “We live in Rhode Island, hoping to move to Ellsworth someday soon, our kind of life! Love this!”