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Oregon Cheese Festival postponed

A gourmet food festival that drew thousands to Central Point in March last year has been postponed to June.

The 16th annual Oregon Cheese Festival, slated for this weekend, was rescheduled to the weekend of June 20-21, according to a press release issued Wednesday by the Oregon Cheese Guild and Rogue Creamery.

“With cases of COVID-19 now presumed in Jackson County, the risk of spreading illness by hosting an event of this size has increased substantially,” said the release, submitted by Rogue Creamery President David Gremmels and Oregon Cheese Guild Executive Director Katie Bray. “Even with the precautionary measures we had planned to ensure adequate sanitation and air flow, the risk is too great to hold it at this time.”

The 16th annual Cheesemaker Dinner, however, will continue as planned from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, March 13, at Lark’s Restaurant at Inn at the Commons in Medford with minor changes, according to Rogue Creamery spokeswoman Marguerite Merritt.

“We’ll probably need to change the open cheese reception,” Merritt said, describing a likely shift from open appetizer plates to single-serve tastings.

Other precautions are still in the works, such as posting flyers at the dinner that encourage healthy habits, but Merritt said the event will largely continue as planned.

Merritt said the chef will have control of the plated dinners before they are served to an estimated 150 people. Limited tickets for the $130 four-course dinner are available at oregoncheesefestival.com.

“The scale of the event is nowhere near the size of the festival,” Merritt said.

Merritt said organizers had been “monitoring the situation closely” for the past week and a half before making the decision to call off the festival Wednesday.

Tickets already purchased for the March festival will be honored in June, and anyone unable to make the June event will be able to request a refund.

The festival was expected to draw more than 120 gourmet food and beverage vendors from around the region, and Merritt said organizers are hoping to have as many vendors on board for the rescheduled event.

As with the planned March event, the June event will temporary close Highway 99 and move some vendors to the street in an effort to “create more space for everyone” — touching on complaints of crowds at last year’s event that organizers are attempting to mitigate.

Reach reporter Nick Morgan at 541-776-4471 or nmorgan@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @MTCrimeBeat.

Rogue Creamery's table at 2019's Oregon Cheese Festival in Central Point. The 2020 festival is rescheduled for June 20 and 21. Mail Tribune file photo.