The SA Cheese Festival has moved to a new location this year and I think it’s a good move as it’s been at Bien Donné for nine years now. Many people haven’t been going to the festival because it’s the same every year, so having it at a new venue gives people an excuse to go again.
But if you think you’re getting the same festival as last year but in a new venue, you’re wrong. Not only is Sandringham closer to Cape Town and easier to find, it is also a better laid out venue. At Bien Donné there were sections which were very separate to the main section and even a section that half the people didn’t even know existed. Whereas Sandringham is laid out as a big U. All the tables and chairs, and the band are in the middle so all marquees lead out onto the central area. It creates a much more cohesive feel. The far end is hemmed in by a small dam. There is a main cheese tent, then a tent with others stuff like olives, wine, biltong, etc. Those take up the one side, and the other is taken up by food stands. The entrance is at the top end.
There were two big complaints I had about the last couple of cheese festivals and both have been addressed. The one was that it was too crowded. This new venue has 30% more space and stacks more tables and chairs (in addition to picnic space on the grass) for those wanting to sit outside. The other problem was that there were very few new cheeses and small cheeseries. This year ABSA has sponsored small producers so there is a bunch of small, interesting producers from all around the country. Look for the stands with an ABSA logo to identify these producers.
The things that made the cheese festival good fun are still there, just improved (except for the music, that’s still pretty horrible). The toilets are amazing, the most impressive portaloos ever. They even had motion activated taps and towel dispensers!
If you haven’t been for a while, seriously, this is your chance to go again. If you’ve been going every year, you’re going to love the new refreshed festival.
I’m looking forward to next year already.
Get all the details you need at the Cheese Festival website.
It is refreshing to hear positive feedback about this festival. I had not gone for the past couple of years partly due to the overcrowding but mainly because if I wanted to battle my way through pissed up 17 year olds I’d have spent more time at Springboks in Claremont.
It had really become more of a winelands festival than a cheese festival, dominated by Woolworths and then passed to Checkers, so it’s good to see some of the smaller producers getting a look in. The sales that they can do over those few days must make a big impact on their finances, as they usually don’t have the production capacity to get mainstream distribution.
It sounds like a positive move allround.
Generally speaking I would agree with the article. Except for the very poorly planned/managed traffic! After waiting for more than two hours to get into the venue on Saturday, the festive mood was more than somewhat dampened. We ended up spending less time at the Festival than we tried getting in at the gates!