SA Cheese Festival Sells its Soul

The SA National Cheese Festival has lost its soul. Or rather, sold it.

What started out as a showcase for local cheeses 10 years ago, quickly moved into a pleasant enough, busy platform for exhibitors outside of the cheese realm. Wine was a natural partner, and here the Cheese Festival quickly became an inclusive and fun event where cheeses and vino could be enjoyed in appropriate wine-land surrounds.

A few years down the line, olives, bread, nougat, clothes, ice-cream, biltong et al was available to the thousands thronging to the festival grounds outside Franschhoek. This was – and is – fine as the angle was local. This year, however, sees the organisers making a noise about Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky playing a major role at the Cheese Festival. This is wrong. For the following reasons:

• A full-day family event in daylight hours is not the right place to promote spirits of any sort. The Cheese Festival already has a reputation for being a piss-up – in 2007 I remember having to help a security guard revive a drunk teenager who had passed out in near the stall I was manning in full view of festivalgoers. In 2006 I complained to the organisers about wine stands serving booze to underaged-children, without any action.