Some Central Oregon communities host brew fests while other put on other festivals for locals and visitors to enjoy.
Such events have given businesses an opportunity to showcase their talents and goods while providing residents and tourists a unique attraction.
Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce wanted to launch such an event locally, but Executive Director Kim Daniels stresses that they needed the festival to stand out.
"We have all of these events that happen in Central Oregon and we are trying to grow and have more events here, but I didn't want to duplicate what another community is doing. That ruled out hosting a brew fest or another festival found in a neighboring community.
"So I mainly just looked for what no one has done yet (regionally) and what is popular," she said.
The answer was macaroni and cheese.
"In other states, mac and cheese festivals are very popular," Daniels explained. "In fact, there is an organization that will come to you and put it on for you."
But the Chamber will not turn to outside help. They want the Prineville version to be entirely local.
Daniels has consequently turned to Prineville restaurants and other organizations who are interested in a friendly mac and cheese-cooking competition. Several have already accepted the challenge. They include Crossroads BBQ Pit & Pub and Juniper Canyon Barbecue, the St. Charles Prineville chef, the Crook County High School culinary program – and Daniels said she has heard that the cafeteria staff at Crook County High School is potentially interested in competing.
"I think that it's fun. I love that it's not just restaurants," Daniels remarked. "It really is about the community and getting people involved."
The event will take place on Sept. 21 at the Crook County Fairgrounds and will be held in partnership with Fairgrounds' Harvest Hoedown event. The Grate Mac'n'Cheese Tease will take place 5-7 p.m. at the fairgrounds pavilion and the Harvest Hoedown — which will feature a beer garden, live music by Countryfied, dancing, food and other vendors — will take place after the contest from 7-10 p.m.
The idea behind the partnership is to help the fairgrounds leaders and the Chamber to grow their respective events.
If any restaurant or individual wants to join the mac and cheese competition, they can contact the Chamber of Commerce office. There is no charge to enter, however, Daniels points out that there are some stipulations involved with the contest.
"They need to make enough macaroni and cheese to feed a large crowd – they can contact us to find out what that number looks like," she said. "The other thing is everything has to be made in a commercial kitchen."
Daniels said the Chamber will help potential competitors who don't have time to man a booth. She said that as long as the organization or individual has the time to make mac and cheese and can bring it down to the fairgrounds, she can find people to staff the booth.
All members of the public are invited to attend the family-friendly event. People will be given voting tickets, similar to the chili cook-off held during Crooked River Roundup Week, and can try samples of any macaroni and cheese they want.
The sample bowls hold about 4 ounces, but Daniels points out that other food vendors will be on hand to help people fill up during the event.
Once all of the voting tickets have been collected, a selection committee will count them up and determine the winner and who gets bragging rights for the year.
"We are just trying to do something fun and different that hasn't been done in Central Oregon," Daniels said. "To be able to do something in Prineville that is kind of a trending thing around the country is pretty cool. To be able to grow the Harvest Hoedown into something bigger for the community and the kids is super cool."
The Grate Mac'n'Cheese Tease will be held on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 5-7 p.m. at the Crook County Fairgrounds pavilion. The Fairgrounds-hosted Harvest Hoedown will follow from 7-10 p.m. Cost to enter the events is $5 or free for children 12 and younger.
To enter the mac and cheese cooking competition, contact the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce at 541-447-6304.
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