Watonga Milking Cheese History to Support Long-Standing Tradition

Friday, August 28th 2009, 7:06 pm
By: News 9

By Gan Matthews, NEWS 9

WATONGA, Oklahoma -- No matter how you slice it, Watonga has always meant cheese, but recently the cheese has moved out of town.

All roads led to the Watonga Cheese Factory, where they really knew their "Kraft."

"You go anywhere and people ask you where you're from, and you say Watonga, and the next things they say is cheese," said Bob Shoemaker, Watonga Resident.

But times have changed.

"We have American single, mild cheddar, sharp cheddar, medium cheddar. No Watonga cheese," said Debbie Gregory, Jim's IGA.

Two years ago, a real "muenster" of a storm came churning through town. It shredded the factory and knocked everything to and "fromage."

Residents in Watonga tried to persuade the owner to reopen his "cottage" industry, but their offer wasn't "gouda 'nuf." Now he's relocated to Perryton, Texas.

"He's getting a building there, and some other financial help," Shoemaker said.

"Does that grate on you?" Gan Matthews asked.

"Yes, it really does," Shoemaker said.

"O queso," the factory is gone, but Watonga keeps milking that history to support its annual cheese festival.

"We still bring in cheese, and this year we will bring it in from an Oklahoma cheese plant," said Rhonda Olson, Watonga Chamber of Commerce.

But for now, it's time to bid Watonga "fond(a)due."

The 33rd annual Watonga Cheese Festival will take place October 9th and 10th.