Cheese production was so important to Toledo’s culture 100 years ago that we had a semi-pro baseball team named the Toledo Cheesemakers. The Cheese Days tradition outlasted our cheese factory, causing many today to wonder “where’s the cheese?”
It all began in 1919, with the opening of the Cowlitz Valley Cheese Association’s new factory on N. Second Street. Dairy farmers brought their milk to the factory, where it was made into American cheddar and pimento cheese. More than 100 co-op members held the first gathering on June 15, 1919 at Day’s Grove and celebrated with coffee and cheese sandwiches. Everyone had such a nice time they decided to celebrate again the next year. The Toledo Commercial Club sponsored Cheese Day and included the whole community.
The factory produced more than 800 pounds of cheese a day. An ice machine installed in 1920 provided cold storage for public use. In 1926, the association sold the cheese factory to Art Karlen, who continued to produce excellent cheese and installed a butter churn that produced hundreds of pounds of butter a day. The factory also produced ice and the protein casein.
Cheese Day expanded to include sporting competitions for baseball, tennis, and wrestling. People danced to hillbilly music and enjoyed a Ferris Wheel and merry-go-round. There were cheese sandwiches for everyone.
The local Veterans of Foreign Wars post took over sponsorship of the event in 1937.