What festival, in its sophomore year, nearly doubles its attendance from last year’s initial estimate of 25,000 attendees to 65,000 this year … triples its footprint to 600,000 square feet from 200,000 … and goes from 23 vendors to 85 exhibitors? The 2016 Mac and Cheese Festival!
Not only did it deliver on its promises to address all the challenges it faced in its inaugural year, but they revitalized and basically resuscitated the most iconic sphere on Toronto’s waterfront: Ontario Place.
Ontario Place had been left abandoned on the shores of Lake Ontario for over five years. The former summer haven for family gatherings and urban fairs was covered in grasslands and weeds, says Event Director, Dan Janetos. “We basically were approached by the venue to have our 2016 festival breathe life back to these fairgrounds.” So with their mantra to be authentically Canadian, the festival organizers cleaned up the pathways, structured traffic flow, and re-created the carnival atmosphere — and thus became the unsung hero to Toronto’s kickoff to summer event calendar.
The 2016 Man and Cheese Festival had local craft breweries and wineries, kiddie rides, a sunbathing beach, a band shell stage and of course 40 competing macaroni and cheese recipes all vying for the “big cheese” title. From mac‘n cheese on poutine to torched vegan mac‘n cheese to kale mac‘n cheese to mac‘n cheese balls, every shape and form of this pasta and dairy delight makes every carboholic’s savory dreams come true!
Personally all I needed was the smaller sampler trays, because frankly they get pretty filling after a few bites. So after a few stations it became all about the toppings. Seriously how can you go wrong with truffle oil as a dressing on your mac‘n cheese? Simply delectable.
But you get pretty thirsty, and I was happy to see local GTA breweries represented like Brock Street Brewery, Prince Edward County winery Sandbanks, and even an Ontario startup brand with their healthier vodka beverage, Social Lite. Ahhh, refreshing. And once you had your main cheese fix you could even have dessert with a slice of cake from Le Dolci. Now that’s what I call a three-course meal.
So whatever your mac‘n cheese palate desired, it surely was satisfied. I loved every morsel. I’m still nursing a carb hangover. What an amazing event for my eyes, ears and stomach and look out for coast to coast country domination of the Mac and Cheese Festival as they bring yumminess to Canadians everywhere. Awesome to see Ontario Place come alive again and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer has in store within her re-invented reign.
Jacob Lolarga is an event marketing manager, emcee, and cultural explorer. When he’s not running around town keeping up his event socialite status, he can be found planning his next #yolo adventure.