Chasing the cheese in Belfast at Maine Celtic Celebration

Tue, 07/26/2022 - 1:45pm

BELFAST – Every summer for the past 16 years, the competition gets keen amongst certain fleet-footed racers, who barrel down the hill after a rolling ball of cheese.

It’s the Celtic in them, or appreciate thereof, that sends them flying.

This year, the 2022 Maine Celtic Celebration took place July 22-24, in the Belfast waterfront park. The Cheese Chasers participated in the Cheese Roll Championships, and photographer Jeffrey Mabee caught the action.

According to the Festival:

Cheese rolling dates back to the 1800s in the U.K. and is now celebrated each year at the “Cooper’s Hill Cheese Rolling and Wake” in the county of Gloucestershire in southwest England. In recent years the competition in Gloucester has been at risk due to controversy about safety and security. But cheese rolling is alive and well at the Maine Celtic Celebration where all are welcome to watch and/or chase cheese.

The Cheese Roll Championships consist of ten races, organized based on age and gender of contestants. Contestants must register in advance at the Celtic Celebration Information Booth located at the bottom of the cheese roll hill on Belfast Common (with an adult if under age 18). The number of competitors is unlimited for groups up to age 12. For older folks, the number is limited to ten racers. If more than ten show up to chase the cheese, they will have to race uphill first, and the first ten will be final contestants.

Each race begins with a five-pound wheel of cheese being rolled down the slope on Belfast Common toward the bay. The group will race to catch up with and grab the cheese wheel. The Grand Prize - each cheese wheel plus a selection of specialty cheeses - is well worth the downhill plunge. The cheese wheel maker, Pineland Farms Dairy, is located in Bangor and support local dairy farmers by using 100% fresh Maine milk to handcraft specialty cheeses in a state-of-the-art facility using old-world cheese making techniques. Jim Lesser of Pineland Farms comments. "By purchasing locally, you are not only getting the finest cheese, but you are supporting your local farms, your local economy, and a regional food system that is better for you and the environment."