Monday, September 8, 2008

My Cheese Affair

I have been planning on telling you what I did this summer, and here goes...I had an Affair. I'm not trying to keep it a secret, most people know, my husband knows, it was a cheese affair. I know, you think I'm joking, but it's the truth, cross my heart, and stuff like that, and I'm ready to talk about it.

The OC Fair and Events Center, formally known as the Orange County Fair, traditionally runs with a theme. This year the theme was "Say Cheese". The creative minds and Big Cheeses, at the fair, saw an obvious connection to the industry and an exhibit would be needed ...on cheese. With me so far?

This is how I got involved, I know someone who works there, who knows someone, who needs someone to do it. What I was thinking at the time was, "wow, a fun, easy project to do, now that my business is closed and I don't have any plans." So, I go see Joan, Community Relations Director, who eagerly and generously hires me. I wonder sometimes if its because shes thinking a 25 year event veteran and "fresh out of the kitchen caterer" could pull this off, or she had know idea how to post for a cheese exhibit job. Thus I became OC Fair Cheese Exhibit Coordinator.

The cheese exhibit was to take place in a large tent 160x 100 feet, over the last twelve days of the fair. With the name "The OC Cheese A-Fair" approved , I was ready to develop concept for the enormous area. I decide on a old fashion"fair-slash-circus theme" for the venue look and developed a mission statement for its direction. Joan is a half glass over full person, so any cheesy idea I came up with she whole heartedly agreed to. If my ideas weren't crazy enough, Rachelle, Exhibit Supervisor at the fair, and insanely creative, added more.

I had about 12 weeks to create a program, that would educate and entertain fair goers about cheese. My ambitious ideas included an arsenal of 15 different contests, professional as well as amateur demonstrators, these would run on the hour and total 104 stage presentations by the end. In addition, there would be hands on games and activities, an exhibit of antique cheese gear, and educational signs with a bevy of "did you knows"cleverly written on them. I punctuated the theme with circus props, and silly cheesy things like fun house mirrors, a full sized faux cow painted to look like cheese. One of Rachelle's ideas were to have giant cheese replicas made for people to climb and sit on, so we did. She also created the cheese fountain and came up with the idea to hang colorful streamers from the ceiling.

The venue was so big, an exhibit of antique farm tractors would help fill the space. The tractors graciously on loan from the Segerstrom Family were beautiful. In producing signage and meeting with the Segerstrom Farm Foreman, Oscar, I learned everything I ever wanted to know about tractors. To tie the farm theme with the rest of the look, a baby "Happy Cow", was on exhibit as well as a kiddie tractor ride called "Cheesy Rider". The hit of the whole tent, however was "The Mac and Cheese Bowl" a blue child's swimming pool I filled with foam float cut "noodles" instead of water.

The headliner of the "Cheese A-Fair", and truly the most unique, was a 650 pound block of cheese donated by Land O' Lakes, and sculpted by artist Jim Victor, of Pennsylvania. The very act of arranging for, delivery of , installation and elimination of a 650 pound block of cheese is a story itself. Another key feature was the gourmet cheese and wine counter, Joan championed. It was a source for fine cheese amongst a fair known only for junk food and produced by the fairs on site caterer, Ovations.

I realize I'm getting long, so I'll save more detailed experiences for another time. Should I forget to tell you about the "Iron Man Cheese Challenge", the "Easy Cheesy Contest", and the amazing chefs and demonstrators I worked with, remind me and I'll get back to it. Until then, just know I had an exhausting, stimulating affair with cheese,and I'm not over it yet.

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