The Little Falls Cheese Festival
This Saturday the annual Little Falls Cheese Festival takes place all along Main Street in Little Falls, NY. This event celebrates cheese making as it attracts cheese producers and artisans from around the country. This year’s focus is on Little Falls as our nation’s first U.S. Cheese Market. From 1864-1870, Little Falls was the largest interior cheese market in the world. It remained a center for cheese production well into the twentieth century.
Organizers, volunteers and city officials have been hard at work preparing for this year’s Cheese Festival filled with many local cheese vendors, farmers, and creators lining both sides of the street.
According to the Little Falls Cheese Festival all cheese vendors will be NY based cheese makers. You’ll find a wide variety of cheese to sample and buy. Cheddars, Gouda, Brie’s, Curds, and so much more!
In addition to cheese you’ll find vendors offering gourmet foods, craft beverages, wood workers, food trucks, and more!
How to get to the Cheese Festival – Free Parking, Free Shuttle!
With many of the streets in downtown blocked for the festival, it’s recommended visitors use one of the special parking locations set up for the festival.
Main Street is closed for five blocks during the festival, making driving and parking downtown difficult.* Instead, please follow the signs to free parking lots, and board a free shuttle bus. (Handicapped visitors will find the East parking lot option easier.)
Buses run continuously, all day, as needed.
- Festival parking in the small Kinney Drugs/Dollar General lot and the large Price Chopper grocery store lot is prohibited—for their customers only; thanks for respecting!
West Parking Lot
Located at 25 Industrial Park Drive, Little Falls, NY 13365 (Mohawk Healthcare)
The shuttle bus from here will drop off at the corner of Albany Street and North Ann Street (Rodeway Inn) before returning to the lot.
East Parking Lot
247 Burwell Street, Little Falls, NY 13365 (Veteran’s Memorial Park)
The shuttle bus from here will drop off on William Street (CVS, across from the Fire Station) before returning to the lot.
How did Little Falls become a such an important Cheese Market?
There were a couple of conditions that contributed the rise of cheese as a major agricultural product in the Mohawk Valley and the rise of Little Falls as the center of the national cheese market.
The Rise of Cheese in the Mohawk Valley
During the time of the Revolutionary War, the Mohawk Valley was known as the bread basket of the colonies. According to the Little Falls Historical Society Museum website,
The Mohawk Valley was considered the bread basket of the colonies during the American Revolution because of its fertile soil and the skill and hard work of the Palatine German farmers. Wheat and other grains could be grown in abundance, but it had to be ground to flour to become a foodstuff.”
However, in the years after the revolution several long and difficult winters made it more difficult for local farmers to sustain a living growing grains in the harsh conditions with shorter growing seasons. These changes in conditions helped cause the shift to dairy farming as the grasses needed to feed cows grew well in the midst of the difficult growing conditions.
Since Roman times, cheese making has long been a method for preserving dairy products. So in order for the many dairy farmers in the Mohawk Valley to be able to get their product to markets outside the Mohawk Valley to places like Albany and New York City before they spoiled, making cheese became a profitable choice.
Getting products to market
By the later half of the 1800’s, Mohawk Valley farmers were able to get their products to markets in Albany and New York City over roads, by boat along the Erie Canal and then later by train. Moving farm products to markets beyond the Mohawk Valley was relatively simple using these networks of transportation.
The first open-air U.S. cheese market opened at the intersection of Ann Street and Albany street in 1861. This market was located close to the local train station in town where cheese brokers from Albany, New York, and beyond would arrive to get the best price for cheese. Prices established at the Little Falls Cheese Market would also be sent by wire establishing cheese prices across the U.S..
Local Mohawk Valley cheese makers would clog the streets in town as they brought their cheese to market. Many of the methods for making and developing cheese, along with improvements in the technology used to make cheese were developed by local manufacturers.