ACS Preview; Jim Page Remembered

ACS Preview

The American Cheese Society will mark its 25th anniversary in grand fashion next month, as Chicago will play host to the organization’s annual conference.

More than 1,000 cheese makers, retailers and restaurateurs will convene July 23-27 at the Hilton Chicago to celebrate the widespread enthusiasm for American specialty cheese. In addition, approximately1,200 cheeses will be judged during a national competition.

While much of the conference is designed for members only, the public can participate in two stellar cheese events: the Festival of Cheese, which will be held at the Hilton Chicago on the evening of Saturday, July 26, and a Cheese Sale, which will be held at Kendall College the morning of Sunday, July 27.

“Because it is the 25th anniversary of our conference, we are planning these spectacular events for our members and the public to come and experience the finest array of hand-crafted cheeses ever assembled,” said Marci Wilson, exec. dir. of the American Cheese Society. “It’s a rare opportunity for cheese lovers to peruse, sample, and purchase the top cheeses in North America all in one weekend.”

The growth of the American Cheese Society Conference has been no less than explosive in recent years, said Wilson. Between 2005 and 2007, conference attendance increased by a remarkable 84 percent. The 25th Annual Conference is expected to be the largest in ACS history with more than 1,000 attendees.

“Chicago was chosen as the host city this year because it is a top-tier city that provides a big stage for our anniversary, and chefs and consumers in the area have a huge interest in cheese,” she said. “We also chose Chicago because of its proximity to the Dairy State and Milwaukee in particular, which is the gateway to many cheese making operations.” 

The conference will be attended by cheese makers from all over North America, including Beecher’s Handmade Cheese in Washington; Capriole in Indiana; Everona Dairy in Virginia; Redwood Hill Farm in California; Rogue Creamery in Oregon; Uplands Cheese in Wisconsin; and Vermont Butter & Cheese in Vermont.

In addition, local chefs including John Caputo of Bin 36, Susan Goss of West Town Tavern and Joshua Humphrey of Sam & Harry’s will perform cooking demos with cheese during the conference.

The ultimate event for any cheese lover is the Festival of Cheese, which will be held Saturday, July 26 from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at the Hilton Chicago. Festival-goers will have the opportunity to taste more than 1,200 cheeses, including the award winners that will be announced earlier in the day. The cost to the public is $85 per person.

“The Festival offers a rare opportunity for people to taste a wide variety of cow, goat, and sheep cheeses, many of which are never sold beyond the region where the cheese is made,” said Wilson. “Also, the Festival Marketplace will feature cheese-friendly products, wines and beers that complement the cheese tasting.”

The cheese extravaganza continues with a Cheese Sale on Sunday, July 27 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Kendall College at 900 N. North Branch Street in Chicago, where the public will have the chance to buy specialty cheeses at rock-bottom prices.

 “Our Cheese Sale is always a lively affair, as it provides cheese aficionados the opportunity to purchase artisanal cheeses not usually available and certainly not at such low prices,” said Wilson.

A related event, produced by the Chicago Beer Society will take place beginning at 2 p.m. at Rock Bottom Brewery, Chicago at State Street and Grand Ave.  Curds and Ale, a Celebration of American Artistry, will feature artisan cheeses, some from the conference, paired with American craft beers. A limited number of tickets for this event will be available to conference attendees through ACS.

To purchase tickets for the Festival of Cheese and for a complete list of ACS conference events, times and costs, please call the ACS headquarters at  502/583-3783 or visit n

Sidebar: American Cheese Society 2007 Annual Conference numbers at-a-glance:

Over 1,400 members
829 Attendees
1,209 Competition Entries
310 Awards Given
86 Sponsors
11 Book Authors
24 Educational Sessions
82 Presenters
30 Judges

Jim Page Remembered

The dairy industry lost one of its leaders, Jim Page, 59, who passed on April 30 after a long battle with cancer.

Jim had a successful career in the dairy industry spanning more than 30 years, including most recently being CEO of the American Dairy Products Institute (ADPI) since 2002. Prior to working for ADPI, Jim held positions with Dean Foods, Kraft Foods and PET Dairy. He was instrumental in developing several leading brands.

Page received recognition for his financial and marketing savvy and was named Marketer of the Year by Advertising Age in 1998 for his contributions to the development and execution of Dean’s Milk Chug beverage program. He also was named one of the top-100 marketers in America and received the Golden Cone award for excellence in frozen dessert products. He served on several industry and business boards, including the Dairy Foods editorial advisory board.

He left a message for his friends and colleagues:

“I have had it all, friends, success, love and a wonderful family. I have been so blessed. I would love to see more sunrises, more full moons, more Georgia games, more big fish at the end of my line, but I saw it all. The greatest gift that God gave me was the appreciation of all my blessings. He taught me how much I was loved, how beautiful His world is, how every day is a gift. Having cancer made me a better person, I believe. My eyes were open and I saw the wonder of the things around me (my life, my family, my friends). I have lived all around the country and it taught me how much I love the South. There is beauty everywhere, but my home and my heart are in Georgia.”

Page was born in Savannah, Ga., in 1949. In 1971 he graduated from the University of Georgia with a marketing degree and a continuing addiction to Georgia athletics . . . as he would often say, “Southerner by birth and Bulldog by the grace of God.” Also in 1971 he married his high school sweetheart, Jayne Spell. In 1978 Jim and Jayne adopted Meredith. Jayne lost a long battle with complications from leukemia in 1999.

Jim got a second chance at love when he married his best friend of 19 years, Madeleine Hanna in 2001. They soon settled into their dream home on Lake Oconee, which was where he spent his final days. The couple had many great times at their lake home, most notably after they became grandparents in 2006 to James “J.J.” Neil Jones, who was born to Meredith and her husband Troy Jones.

Throughout his illness, Page maintained a positive outlook and an active lifestyle.  He even attended his nephew’s wedding the weekend prior to his passing where he and Madeleine enjoyed their last dance.

Page died the day after the 2008 ADPI/ABI Annual Conference ended. Though he was not in attendance he was very well aware that this year’s meeting achieved record attendance, as he called his staff frequently during the course of the three-day meeting.

Feeling content and “ready,” Page wrote these final words to share with all who knew him:

“Don’t be sad. Celebrate the good times we had together. If you were my friend, then you were loved. If you were my family, you were cherished. Notice the sunrises, inhale the full moons. We are so lucky to be on God’s earth, so why mess it up by having a bad day? Don’t dwell on me; just think of me when you do my favorite things, like:

• Eat at the Varsity

• See the moon rise over water

• Feel the tingle in your spine when a big fish is on the line

• Taste great ice cream or a chocolate milkshake

• Say ‘Go Dawgs’

• Hear the sound of the bat on the ball or the ball hitting the glove

• Hold your child or grandchild

• Feel the tingle of your love on your back on a cold night (or, for that matter, any night)

• See the splendor of God’s creation each April at Augusta National

• When you sing ‘Glory, Glory to Old Georgia’ (and ‘To Hell with Georgia Tech’)

• See the wonders of spring.”

May Jim rest in peace.