Cheese Days in Toledo to celebrate 101-year-old Don Buswell and sons as this year’s ‘Big Cheeses’

Festivities to kick off in South Lewis County town on Thursday and Friday


Toledo’s 103rd annual Cheese Days festival will highlight 101-year-old Toledo local Don Buswell and his sons as the event’s “Big Cheeses,” essentially grand marshals of the ceremonies.

The “Big Cheeses” will be celebrated during the Big Cheese Social.

Starting Thursday, July 11, Toledo Cheese Days will kick off four days filled with family-friendly fun and activities in remembrance of Toledo’s formerly booming cheese industry.

On the first day of the event, the Big Cheese Social will be held at Kemp Olson Community Park at 6 p.m. where there will be live music by Dakota Robbins and Ellie Buzzard, sponsored by Julia Gaul. Dinner will be provided by Bonanza BBQ, sponsored by the Paula Burrows Team. The “Big Cheeses” will receive a toast at the event.

Don Buswell Sr. was born in Toledo in 1922 and was a Toledo High School graduate in 1939. He joined the military in 1942 as an Air Corps pilot. Following the war, he moved approximately 13 times before settling again in Toledo after the death of his father in 1968 with his sons Don Jr., Carl, Guy, Alan and wife Bernice.

Buswell worked as a logger for many years and cleared areas that are used today as access to Mount Rainier National Park and roadways to campgrounds in the surrounding area. Upon their return to Toledo, the whole family took up the job of farming the land left to Don Sr. by his father and were all active members in the community.

For more details on Don’s experiences during the Great Depression while living in Toledo, his time as an Air Corps pilot and some shenanigans in California involving Bigfoot sightings, take a look at the 2024 Cheese Days Magazine available on the Toledo Lions Club website at  

In an interview with the Buswells from the Cheese Days 2024 Magazine, Don and his sons fondly remembered their previous Cheese Days experiences. Ax contests, climbing competitions and winning the beer drinking contest two years in a row were among their favorites.

But where did Cheese Days come from? And where is the cheese?

On the Toledo Lions Club website, the organization highlights the town’s past dairy production. “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.”

Cheese Days only grew from there, eventually including sports activities, live music and food vendors. According to Jake Morgan’s article in last year’s Cheese Days Magazine, “Cheese days was suspended during World War II and the factory stopped producing cheese and focused on producing butter and powdered milk. A fire destroyed the cheese factory in 1945.”

Despite the ups and downs, Cheese Days is still going strong thanks to the community’s participation and local volunteerism. The organization wanted to highlight a specific volunteer this year, Sharon Ripp, who is stepping down after 25 years on the Cheese Days Committee. “She has been a huge part in the success of the car show and will be truly missed!” said fellow  committee member Cyndi Philbrook.

For the car show, Philbrook said there will be 100 trophies this year.

Every day of the festival from Thursday, July 11, to Sunday, July 14, is jam packed with events. The event’s major sponsors are The Paula Burrows Team, Philbrook Insurance Agency, Donna’s Place and Lund Realty.

Along with the Big Cheese Social on Thursday, there will be arts and crafts vendors, the Thursday market and a children’s coloring contest.

On Friday, the 28th annual “Cheddar Open” golf tournament will take place at the Newaukum Valley Golf Course, more arts and crafts vendors will be available and a tennis tournament for those 12 and older will be held, along with a frog jumping contest and bingo. Chris Guenther will be playing on Ramsey Way outside Donna’s Place in the evening.

The art markets, street vendors and food vendors will continue selling their wares on Saturday. A pancake breakfast, 3-mile run named the Cheddar Challenge, and free cheese sandwiches will also be available Saturday.

The main events will be the 24th annual car and motorcycle show and the Cheese Days parade. The Toledo Community Library will offer a bake and book sale and the Toledo Fire Department will host an open house. There will be a barbecue from noon to 5 p.m. and a wine and cheese event from 4 to 8 p.m. More live music will be offered on Ramsey Way outside Donna’s Place featuring Pat Murphy and the Straightshot Band at 8 p.m.

On Sunday there will be a horseshoe tournament, an all-class reunion, a barbecue, a beef auction and the 20th annual dessert auction.

The events schedule is subject to change. For more exact times, locations and descriptions of the events, visit the Toledo Lions Club website at


Thursday, July 11:

• Big Cheese Social — 6 to 8:30 p.m.

• Coloring Contest Awards — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• Toledo Made — 1 p.m. July 11 - 5 p.m. July 13

• Toledo Thursday Market — 2 to 6 p.m.


Friday, July 12:

• 28th annual “Cheddar Open” Golf Tournament — 9:15 a.m. to 1 p.m.

• Frog Jumping Contest — 6 to 7 p.m.

• Bingo — 6:30 to 9 p.m.

• Music in the Street — 8 to 10:30 p.m.


Saturday, July 13:

• Cheddar Challenge — 6:45 to 9:30 a.m.

• Pancake Breakfast — 7 to 10 a.m.

• 24th annual Car and Motorcycle Show — 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

• Toledo Library Bake and Book Sale — 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

• Food and vendors — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

• Street Arts and Crafts Sale — 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

• Toledo Cheese Days Parade — 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

• Barbecue — noon to 5 p.m.

• Toledo Fire Department Open House — noon to 5 p.m.

• Wine and Cheese Event — 4 to 8 p.m.

• Music in the Street — 8 to 10:30 p.m.


Sunday, July 14:

• Horseshoe Tournament — 8 to 10 a.m.

• All-Class Reunion — 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Toledo Lions Club Beef Barbecue — noon to 2 p.m.

• Lions Club Beef Auction — 2:30 to 3:30 p.m.

• 20th annual Dessert Auction — 3 to 4 p.m.