Top 5 Things I learned at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival

This was my first year having a booth at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton, Ontario and I went into it not really knowing what to expect. I had never attended the event in the past so I went in hoping for the best but expecting the worst. What did I learn this year?

Honey…you ain’t in Toronto any more

So on Saturday morning just before event load in, I realized that I had forgotten my disposable gloves for sampling. Gulp! Now what? A quick drive down main street Picton and I realized that about the only thing opened at that hour was Sobey’s. A quick run up and down the aisles and it was clear I wouldn’t be finding disposable gloves there. What next? On the way towards the exit, I spotted an employee coming from the meat counter and she has disposable gloves on. So I decided to ask her and without skipping a beat, this lovely woman tells me that they don’t have them in the store but that she will give me a box. I repeat – GIVE ME A BOX.

We walked out of there shaking our heads and wondering what had just happened. The people of Picton are lovely. Thank you for your hospitality.

Lots of nibbles but I had been hoping for more bites

I lost count as to the number of samples of my products I put out over the two day period. But I do know that at times it was all we could do to keep up. We would refresh one plate and begin on another only to find the last plate empty once again. It was a voracious crowd who were there to taste all there was to taste. They were happy, energetic and ready to listen. But they were also overwhelmed by the sheer number of vendors and weren’t ready to purchase a jar of preserves at the start of their day and then carry it around. Some returned at the end of the day and some did not.

So I handed out my business cards, told my story many times over and gave the samplers as many ideas about how they could use my product in the hopes they would remember me at a later date.

Pack a lunch and wear comfortable shoes

This may seem obvious and not something that should have been a lesson, but it was ;). I had assumed there would be lulls in the volume of people and there would be a chance to visit the food tent. I was wrong.

From the moment the doors opened, it was constant. People just continued to pour through the doors, which is a testament to the wonderful job the organizers of the event did at promoting the event.

My thoughts of visiting to food tent or even sitting were quickly dashed.

Make the samples you are giving out worthy of a ticket

Visitors to the cheese festival buy tickets in order to sample the goodies that vendors have brought. So if your samples are enticing enough, people will be willing to part with a ticket to try them. This is a great way to recover some of the cost of sampling.

Do your shopping from other vendors before the event begins

If you are hoping to load up on some of the amazing products that are at the Cheese Festival either over staff your stall so you have a chance to steal away and wander around the event or do your shopping between 10-11 when it is open to press but not yet the public.

It was a busy but wonderful weekend. I met some amazing people and made some great connections and hope to return to the festival again next year.