By Lillian Eden
BU News Service
CONCORD — Every first Thursday of December for the last decade, The Cheese Shop in Concord has marked the arrival of a particular cheese from the village of Scurelle, Italy in a unique way.
“I mean, who doesn’t love a cheese parade?” said Peter Lovis, the proprietor of the shop.
The 10th annual Crucolo Cheese Parade was celebrated this year with a single wheel of cheese weighing a thousand pounds. It may be the only one of its size to arrive in the U.S this year, as only 10 are made yearly, according to one of the shop’s cheesemongers, Steve Dahlgren.
“Ten years in now, people come in all year round, they’ll ask for the parade cheese,” Dahlgren said.
It’s more than twice the amount they normally order for this celebration, he said. The wheel itself is almost four feet in diameter, and it took eight to 10 people to unload it from a truck and affix it to the trailer that would be pulled to the stage in front of the shop.
Being a cheesemonger is about theatricality and telling stories, explained Dahlgren.
“Why a thousand pounds of cheese?” he said. “Why not?”
Walden Street, where the shop is located, was closed before the event. Red, white and green balloons were tied to parking meters and a small stage painted like the Italian flag was set up in front of the shop.
“It’s people gathering for cheese and nothing else,” Dahlgren said.
Lovis estimated the crowd to be about 2,000 people.
The cheese shop team, wearing bright yellow fleeces, handed out Italian flags and helped onlookers put temporary “IheartCrucolo” tattoos on their faces and hands. A member of the crowd made a valiant effort to start the chant: “Hey hey! Ho ho! What do we like? Crucolo!”
The thousand-pound wheel of Crucolo cheese was pulled by a horse named Luke through the town center, escorted by a band and His Majesty’s 10th regiment of foot in colonial attire.
Before cutting and sampling could begin, there had to be a town proclamation.
The Concord Board of Selectmen write the proclamation for the parade. Lovis had asked in previous years if someone from the board could come read the proclamation for the parade.
“So I came and I just got hooked on it. I just love doing it every time,” said Steven Ng, who has been the town crier at the parade for about five years.
Also in attendance was Devis Anderle, the ninth generation producer at the family-owned company that makes Crucolo.
Anderle surprised Lovis with special flags to commemorate the occasion.
“He wanted to thank the importer and the distributor and me for the 10th anniversary,” Lovis said.
After the proclamation, the large wheel of Italian mountain cheese was cut into quarters with a wire by Lovis. Anderle helped split and separate the large wheel with something that resembled a shovel.
“Oh, it smells delicious!” someone exclaimed as the tangy aroma of cheese wafted over the crowd.
A large chunk of the cheese was brought to a table on the stage, where some of the cheese shop team made quick work of slicing and dicing the cheese to be put on platters and distributed to the waiting crowd for sampling.
Crucolo cheese is a somewhat soft, mild and tangy Asiago-type cheese made from pasteurized cow milk. It can be quite versatile, Lovis said, and can be melted or used as part of a cheese board.
Some sections of the wheel were carried into the shop by two people using a small platform with two handles painted like an Italian flag. One section was set on a table in front of the shop so people could pose for pictures with it.
“This is like Mardi Gras, only for cheese,” said Brenda Gowing, a second time parade goer. “I love it. I love the cheese parade.”
Dahlgren isn’t sure yet how they’re going to celebrate next year; this is the largest wheel of cheese that the producer, Rifigio Crucolo, makes.
“We have a year to prepare,” he said confidently.
Lovis said he thinks they’ll go back to ordering two 400 pound wheels for next year.
“Thousand pounder was a bit of a, it was a push. It was work,” he laughed. “It’s a thousand-pound wheel of cheese!”