By Telly Halkias
Lindy Lynch wants everyone to know that the self-professed “Garlic capital of the world,” Gilroy, Calif., has got nothing on Bennington, Vt.
A heck of a powerful stench coming from southwest Vermont over Labor Day Weekend.
Lynch, perennial organizing chairwoman of the annual Southern Vermont Garlic and Herb Festival, also known as Garlic Fest, is expecting yet another record setting crowd at its 22nd edition.
The festival will be held the Saturday and Sunday of Labor Day weekend in Bennington, on the grounds of the Antiques Center at Camelot Village.
The celebration is meant to honor and promote all things garlic and herbal. Lynch, past president of the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce and Garlic Fest 2017’s organizer, emphasized that it is more than just that.
“No question, Garlic Fest crowds have grown every year since its move to Bennington,” Lynch said, referring to its original location in Wilmington, Vt. “The entire event itself is one big family gathering where people can roam and take in food, music and more. Kids can also explore so many fun things. While garlic is definitely the theme, hundreds of regional vendors add to making it such a great time for the family.”
Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce Director Matt Harrington called Garlic Fest “the town’s premier annual event,” and added that in the past two years there has been a positive economic effect locally as crowds have approached 15,000.
“We’ve created a good base over time and now this Garlic Fest is seen as one of the best in the world,” Harrington said. “I know our members across the board see a jump in sales because of this event. Garlic Fest is a good economic development driver. People come here to Bennington and instantly fall in love with the lifestyle of southern Vermonters.”
A legacy which lasts
The Garlic and Herb Festival was the creation of the late Steve Wrathall, who passed away suddenly in 2009 at the age of 52. Two decades ago, Wrathall, longtime chef at the Red Oak Inn in Wilmington, Vt. developed the fête as a magnet event for that mountain tourist haven.
Over the years he and his wife, Joy Dowell, worked hard to help the event expand and it eventually outgrew its mountainous milieu.
As such, several years before his death, Wrathall and the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce reached an agreement to keep the festival in Southern Vermont by moving it to a larger town and for the Chamber to assume all responsibility for its functions.
Bring the entire family
Garlic Fest 2017 will incorporate elements steeped in the original garlic and herb motifs. It will also offers other activities that cover a broad range of tastes, for both adults and children.
More than 200 vendors will offer up an array of garlic-inspired booths, from garlic popcorn to garlic wreaths and garlic-flavored chocolate.
There will be plenty to see and do — and eat. This year’s food court will feature 20 vendors, another high for the festival. A Beer and Wine Garden tent will include Vermont Craft Brews, wine, and specialty drinks like Garlic Bloody Marys and Garlic Margaritas.
Live music is a Garlic Fest staple. A number of a musical artists will perform in a variety of musical genres. Saturday’s acts include Blue Jazz, Hill Hollow, Julie Shea Band, and The Legato Blues Band. Sunday’s line-up includes Ray Gifford, Carma, Roadhouse, and Beard and Glasses.
Garlic-centered vendors abound, offering everything from garlic-themed cooking demonstrations and traditional garlic braiding to weed walks, which extol the virtue of weeds for medicinal purposes.
Stephen Lawrence, general manager of Spice Root Indian Cuisine in Williamstown, who has been a food vendor at many past Garlic Fests, summed up the experience.
“While garlic is used in kitchens all over the world, there’s more to this event,” Lawrence said. “I wasn’t just a vendor at Garlic Fest, but a husband and father. My family always comes along and has a great time.”
If you go …
What: 22nd annual Southern Vermont Garlic and Herb Festival, AKA Garlic Fest 2017
When: Saturday, Sept. 2 and Sunday, Sept. 3, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Where: 66 Colgate Heights, Bennington, Vt. (The Antique Center at Camelot Village), on Route 9, just west of Old Bennington.
Parking: Yes, several acres, on site.
Smoking area and portable bathrooms: Yes.
Admission: The cost for a one-day pass is $6 online and $8 at the gate for adults and $2 for children 12 and under. A two-day pass is $10.
Tip: If you plan on staying all day, bring a few lawn chairs in your car, and kick back to enjoy music and fun when you’re not roaming and exploring the festival.
Info: Call 802-447-3311 or bennington.com/Garlic Fest.