Peter Lovis might be right when he says “everybody loves a cheese parade.”
But that doesn’t mean everyone gets a cheese parade — and to Lovis’s seemingly immeasurable sorrow, Concord’s not getting one (again) this December.
Lovis is the owner of The Cheese Shop on Walden Street. For years, he made a (literally) traffic-stopping production of bringing in a 400-pound crucolo cheese from Italy for the holidays.
Hundreds, if not thousands, flocked to the deliberately zany event until Covid. So many fans have asked Lovis about whether the parade is finally coming back this December that he prepared a written statement: “We would love to do it again. It is a great event for the townspeople, the town as a whole, and the greater community. However, there are elements that are beyond our control that we have to consider.”
So… what elements?
Lovis, who really, really loves to talk about cheese — but looked unexcited at being grilled on this — turned to co-worker Michael Reilly for help.
“Emerging from the Covid crisis of the last two years, the complexity of putting on an event of this magnitude in a safe manner precludes us from doing it this year,” Reilly said after some consideration.
It’s a rare serious moment in a freewheeling conversation with Lovis, Reilly and other Cheese Shop workers that was more standup comedy than standard interview. (That’s very on brand: Goofing on himself, the garrulous Lovis calls the parade “a big ham following a big piece of cheese.”)
It really is a big piece of cheese — and for years, playing grand marshal in red, white and green, Lovis has made a really big deal of it.
According to eyewitness reports of past spectacles: Horses (sometimes real, but at least once, people in costumes scavenged from a run of “Equus” over at the Umbrella). Tubas. Dancers. A red carpet. A unicyclist. A “town crier” (then-Select Board member Steven Ng with a sash and a proclamation scroll). A Miss Crucolo U.S.A. (and a Miss Crucolo Universe, and a Junior Miss Crucolo).
And as fast as the crew could possibly turn them out: platters of freshly cubed crucolo samples for the fun- (and dairy-) hungry crowds to grab and savor.
People ate it up.
Public Health Director Melanie Dineen said in an email that she couldn’t comment specifically on any future cheese parade plans, but in general, applications for food-related events are evaluated for compliance with the sanitary code.
A notation on the northern Italy cheesemaker’s website says its crucolo, a cow’s milk delicacy with a “white, buttery texture and widespread holes,” has become “a real cult” in Concord.
Its cheese parade description reads like a museum pamphlet — if the museum were run by Ripley’s Believe It or Not: “Every December, the population celebrate the arrival of a giant wheel, then chopped and enjoyed by all the citizens and the people from other cities who have come to the event.”
Listening in on Lovis’s reminiscences, cheesemonger Elliot Chapman, 19, said growing up, he associated big Concord events mostly with celebrations of its revolutionary history.
“All of that was cool — but I’ve seen reenactments in other places,” he said. “I haven’t seen a giant wheel of cheese rolled down the street.”
In a town steeped in colonial history, he said, a cheese parade just hit different. “This is the community that’s here right now,” Chapman said. “You’re kind of making an importance of this moment, rather than trying to revere some kind of thing of the past.”
Lovis said he would have had to order the crucolo by August to have it here for the traditional early December parade.
“You ask people what they’re missing [about the parade], they’ll say, ‘It’s fun, it’s different, it’s nice. I mean, that’s all it is,’” he said. “It brings us together and gives people food and excitement. There’s nothing like a cheese parade.”
While Concord goes without filling Walden Street to toast the pride of Trentino, 3,100 miles away, in Oakland, California, the crucolo and its jubilant fans reportedly hit their own parade route in October. Photos of the two events show similarities: The brilliant swaths of Italy’s colors. The cheese at the center of adoring attention.
When Lovis put on the Concord festival, “people were happy. Kids being held in the air. Music. Laughter,” said Marv Goldschmitt of Bedford Falls Gallery, who enthusiastically shared images he’s made of past parades — like the panorama that now hangs in the Cheese Shop’s front window.
When it comes to that kind of joy, Goldschmitt said, “Concord, everywhere, needs more of that.”