Big air
Stunt motocross drivers were soaring high in the air performing dangerous and thrilling tricks during the Curd Festival.   Van Dusen photo

Tom Van Dusen
Record Contributor
ST-ALBERT – “Free” curds for all were available just as they were when it was launched 24 years ago… but much has changed, including the fact visitors first pay $10 admission into the St. Albert Curd Festival before getting to the “free” cheesy bites.

Getting cheesy
Visitors lined up to get a cup of free curd during the annual St. Albert’s Curd Festival. Van Dusen photo

Organized in 1994 as a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the St. Albert Cheese Cooperative, the 2018 edition of the festival was held Thursday through Sunday, drawing thousands of visitors to the “new” factory and the festival on its grounds.

The original St. Albert factory was gutted by fire in the winter of 2013. But a much bigger and better operation with viewing gallery and extra-large restaurant, cheese store and gift shop rose from the ashes to become one of eastern Ontario’s premier tourist attractions.

Over the years, a carnival component has been added to the annual Curd Festival. On Sunday morning, the pace was relatively slow; but most of the action these days takes place at night under the big top… a tent that hosts a variety of musical entertainment, mostly French language, from Les Rats d’Swompe to Anglo band Emerson Drive. The shows cost $25 each.

The festival featured various displays, everything from a kids’ zone with face painting, inflatable games, petting zoo and go-karts, to a stationary row of antique tractors. There was a small outdoor exhibition of community visual arts projects, large tableaux by four prominent local artists including an interpretation of Larose Forest by Shanna Steals of Alfred, coordinator of the Prescott-Russell Arts Council.

Steals piece is called Sanctuary. It’s a representation of nearby man-planted Larose Forest from her personal memories: “In its centre, a mysterious tree which no longer stands today, has made a significant impression and is honoured.”

Daredevil motocross stunt drivers flew through the air with the greatest of ease, wowing the crowd with their stunts. But many visitors seemed content to lounge inside the restaurant and on its patio, diving into the $11.99 brunch and buying packages of discount cheese to take home.

With the throng bustling about below, upstairs where the factory floor was at a Sunday standstill, the viewing promenade complete with signage outlining the history of the coop was a quiet place to get away from it all.