CENTRAL POINT — Like fine wine, the Oregon Cheese Festival seems to be getting better with age.
The annual festival, hosted Saturday by Rogue Creamery in Central Point, attracted about 90 cheese makers, vintners, brewmasters and other food artisans from around the state. All sold their wares under a large tent on Front Street, drawing a crowd that grew into the thousands through the day.
"It's grown just about every year," said Francis Plowman, Rogue Creamery marketing director.
The 2012 event drew about 80 vendors, Plowman said.
"I think it's really a reflection of the artisan community and what a great area for food this is," he said.
Started nine years ago, the event supports the Oregon Cheese Guild, a group of 21 cheese makers statewide who created the group to network with each other and support local business.
Brendon Butler, assistant winemaker for Devitt Winery in Jacksonville, said the flow of attendees Saturday was constant.
"About 11 o'clock, it turned steady," Butler said. "This is one of the better events of the year. We get to see people we haven't had exposure to before, which is nice."
Cassandra Wick of Rising Sun Farms agreed, saying the event highlights the growing food and wine industries in the region.
"It's no secret that Southern Oregon has been emerging as a major player in the food culture. I think this event is evidence of that."
Attendee Dale Welch, of Dupont, Wash., was surprised by the festival's size.
"I thought it was (going to be) real small," he said, adding he hopes to return.
Angela Payant of White City was impressed with the selection of goods, particularly the goat cheeses.
"It was amazing," she said. "The amount of cheeses and chocolates was unexpected."
Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or email@example.com.