Hundreds of locals packed the streets Saturday as classic cars, tractors and floats paraded through downtown Toledo, celebrating the community’s annual Cheese Days festival.
“It's absolutely fun, fun, fun,” said Toledo Mayor Steve Dobosh, who noted that the city needed to expand the parade route this year. “Our crowds are getting bigger and bigger. This community is growing, and we’re putting Toledo on the map.”
Cheese Days, which began nearly 100 years ago, celebrates the city’s dairy history — and it’s become a celebration that draws in people from all over Lewis County and beyond.
“Isn't this great?” said Guy Buswell, the parade organizer. “Being an old teacher here, there's two or three generations I run into. It's pretty neat to see a lot of faces.”
The Big Cheeses — or grand marshals — of the Saturday parade were Denny Clark, Mick Filla and Tom Lahmann, all former educators with the Toledo School District. Buswell wore shirt with the faces of each on it.
“It's a wonderful thing, to see guys who have spent their whole career in this community, devoted to this community, that's a good deal,” he said. “That's fantastic.”
Clark Spahr drove his antique tractor through the parade route, before parking at his home a block or so away. He said he’s enjoyed watching the community change over the decades, and getting to see familiar faces as he shows off his tractor is an annual highlight.
“I know everybody in the community, because I spent 35 years in the fire department,” he said. “It's just nice to be able to show a piece of equipment and have people appreciate it.”
Following the parade, many festival-goers trickled into the “Toledo Made” showcase at Art Gallery 505. According to owner Di Morgan, the event featured work from artists who live in Toledo, grew up in Toledo, work in Toledo or went to school in Toledo.
“There's local people that want to show on Cheese Days,” she said. “It's wonderful. The theme this year is welcoming home, so even more we're acknowledging the people coming to our town.”
Because Cheese Days brings a new audience into the gallery, many locals walking through find art on display from a friend or neighbor with a hidden talent.
“We have some people who are really surprised,” Morgan said. “‘I didn't know he tied flies. I didn't know she was a painter.’”
After finishing up the parade route, county commissioner Gary Stamper praised the city for another successful Cheese Days.
“Toledo always puts on a show and rolls the red carpet out for everyone,” he said. “Lots of people, community spirit and just an overall great time. ... It’s all the things we loved when we were kids and we went to parades. You forget all about the cares of the world.”
Before heading off to take in the car show, Dobosh said the strong turnout at Cheese Days makes him hopeful the event will continue well into the future.
“I hope the next generation keeps it going,” he said. “I want to keep that tradition going.”