By Martin Kelly

For the Triplicate

The Del Norte County Fairgrounds will become a major tourist attraction in a few years if Baird Rumiano has his way.

Rumiano and Rob Jacob presented their plans for a combination retail store and cheese museum to the directors of the 41st Agricultural District Wednesday night. Rumiano is the owner-operator of Rumiano Cheese on Ninth Street. Jacob will manage the new facility.

Rumiano told the fair board he has been working on the planned demonstration cheese factory, retail store and museum for the last three years.

His current plan covers approximately 10,000 square feet. The actual building would house 3,500 square feet. A covered piazza for folks who want to eat cheese delicacies and savor local beverages would cover another 3,500 square feet. The remaining space would be an open plaza reminiscent of Italy.

andquot;We are going to do this first class. I want to make this a must stop for visitors from Medford, Grants Pass, and travelers along highway 101,andquot; Rumiano claimed.

The target location for the project is the corner of 101 and Cooper Street. An old -- and soon to be torn down -- shop building and a similar structure used by a Farmer's Market on a year-to-year lease currently sit on the land. The project would not immediately affect a nearby espresso shop on the fairgrounds property.

The focus of the demonstration cheese factory would be a single 30-gallon kettle. Rumiano's staff would help up to four people a day make a brick of cheese to take home or convert into products to eat on site.

andquot;We want to show the world that Del Norte County has the greatest milkshed in the world,andquot; Rumiano said.

Fair Manager Randy Hatfield explained that the design and construction of the proposed building would be under the control of the California Construction Authority (CCA) since it would be on state property leased to Rumiano Cheese for 45 years.

The CCA will also be responsible for obtaining all state permits needed to erect the building and operate the attraction. The city of Crescent City has already zoned the part of the fairgrounds parking lot where Rumiano wants to put the tourist attraction for commercial operations.

The fair board unanimously endorsed the project and authorized Hatfield to open formal negotiations with Rumiano for a lease.

They also told Hatfield to work closely with the California Construction Authority, other state agencies, and Rumiano Cheese to get the new facility open as quickly as possible.

andquot;It's going to dress up our entrance and be a big draw,andquot; Fair Board President Ernest Silva exclaimed.