How It All Began
Arkansas proved it is the epicenter of the cheese dip culinary world in 2010 as Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock, AR hosted the 1st Annual World Cheese Dip Championship (“WCDC”.) The inaugural event hosted over 6,000 people, served over 225 gallons of cheese dip and offered over 30 different recipes. And we expect thousands more to come together on Saturday, September 24, 2011 to sample and vote on what they think is the best tasting cheese dip on earth. Due to the popularity of last year’s event, we have moved to a more spacious venue, AT&T Field at legendary War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock, AR. While we partake in a day of cheese dip revelry, proceeds from the event benefit Harmony Health Clinic, a free Little Rock-based 501(c)(3) healthcare provider for the uninsured and underinsured in Pulaski County. Because of last year’ success, we were able to donate $5,000 to this vital component in our community.
Cheese dip, as we know it today, was introduced to the world and restaurant menus in 1935 by Blackie Donnelly, a Central Arkansas restaurateur and owner of Mexico Chiquito. In 2009, local attorney and filmmaker Nick Rogers researched the history of cheese dip in Arkansas and why it’s so beloved, and it all led back to Donnelly. “In Queso Fever: A Movie About Cheese Dip” soon followed and instantly went viral. After watching the documentary online, local event planning company, Arkansas Convention & Event Marketing, Inc. (“ACEM”), contacted Rogers about coordinating and developing not only a cheese dip festival but a national competition.
Rogers then created the Southern Cheese Dip Academy to serve as the non-profit umbrella for the WCDC and approached Harmony Health Clinic about being the beneficiary of the WCDC. A partnership was developed between Rogers, ACEM and Harmony Health Clinic, and the WCDC became reality in 2010. After the ultra-successful first year, ACEM began working immediately to develop regional cheese dip competitions, with the intention of starting in Fayetteville, AR with the Northwest Arkansas Cheese Dip Classic. This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, September 10 at the Arkansas Music Pavilion and is sanctioned by the Southern Cheese Dip Academy. This event will benefit the Single Parent Scholarship Fund of Northwest Arkansas. ACEM was contacted by Green Machine Concerts (“GMC”), a national concert promotion company based outside Memphis, about the possibility of working in conjunction with the Memphis Barbecue Network (“MBNI”) on their 2011 Memphis Barbeque Network Invitational on September 1-3, 2011. A partnership was started between GMC and ACEM, and the Mid-South Cheese Dip Classic (“MSCDC”) in Southaven, MS (a suburb of Memphis, TN) is now scheduled for Saturday, September 3 at Snowden-Grove Amphitheater. 9,000 – 10,000 annually attend the MBNI and with the addition of the MSCDC, we expect thousand more. A local non-profit will be selected to be the beneficiary of the dual events.
The Professional Division winners from Memphis and Fayetteville competitions receive free entry into the 2nd Annual World Cheese Dip Championship in Little Rock, AR, as well as hotel accommodations for Championship Weekend. The Professional Division champion of the WCDC wins entry into the 2012 New Orleans Roadfood Festival held along world famous Bourbon and Royal Streets in the French Quarter, which ACEM’s sister company, New Orleans Convention Company, Inc. A third “Classic” will be held October 15, 2011 in conjunction with HarvestFest in Little Rock; this overall winner will be automatically entered in the 2012 WCDC.
Contestants are divided into Amateur and Professional Divisions, and champions are determined by a mixture of local celebrities, politicians and food critics via blind tastings. We also allow festival attendees to vote on the “People’s Champion.” In addition to entry into the WCDC, category winners receive cash prizes as well as locally hand-made and hand-crafted trophies.
The World Cheese Dip Championship is well on its way to being recognized as the premier food festival in Arkansas, and one of our goals is to be known as one of the most entertaining, family-friendly food events in the country. National media picked up the WCDC last year, and expect more national food websites, food writers and bloggers to attend and report on this year’s events, including Seriouseats.com and Roadfood.com. We expect to expand to other states in the future, including Texas and Wisconsin. With the rise in popularity of artisanal cheeses, the sky is the limit for creative and tasty versions of the ultimate comfort food, cheese dip.