FOND DU LAC — Fondue Fest, downtown Fond du Lac's biggest event of the year, drew thousands to the city's downtown for live music, games, pony rides, local vendors, and, of course, fondue.
The cheese and chocolate fondue are prepared every year by culinary students at Moraine Park Technical College.
Kayle Sommers, an adjunct instructor at the college who teaches baking, said proceeds from the fest go toward educational trips for students.
"They're hoping to be able to go over to Germany at the end of the year," Sommers said. "Also some, students will go to the National Restaurant Show in Chicago after graduation."
Sommers has been attending Fondue Fest since she was a student in 2013 and said seeing food bring the community together.
“The best part of it is seeing all these people sitting around the tent, enjoying the fondue and all the bread and the pastries that all these students just, you know, spent the last week, week and a half preparing," Sommers said.
Event organizer Amy Hansen with the Downtown Fond du Lac Partnership said the fest is more than just food.
"We have so many things happening something for everybody," Hansen said. "We have four music stages going on. We have a kid zone. But on Main Street behind us, we have a variety of 200 vendors— arts, crafts, food, everything you can imagine."
Morgan Schmidt has been going to the fest for years, and this year brought her five-year-old daughter Melody and three-year-old son Wyatt.
“I think it's just a very interactive for the kids and keep them busy and let off some steam," Schmidt said.
Melody Schmidt said she enjoyed the events in the kids' zone.
“I went on a pony ride, I got a tattoo, I got my face painted!" Melody Schmidt said.
The event creates life-long fans like Samantha Giese, who is excited to now be able to share the event with her son.
“I've been coming for about like 10 years ever since I was a child. I love it.”
Her son Dartanian said his favorite part was the cheese. For adults, Lakefront Brewery provided a special peanut butter beer complete with a keg-tapping celebration.
But event organizers like Hansen said the fest has a larger purpose: to promote businesses downtown.
"One of our goals obviously is to get people downtown more often for longer periods of time, and then remember to always shop small shop local, visit our downtown businesses," Hansen said. "So events like this create a lot of awareness for our downtown businesses, and that's what we're trying to accomplish."
More information on Fondue Fest can be found on the Downtown Fond du Lac Partnership's website.