Bennington hosts the 22nd annual Garlicfest

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BENNINGTON, VT — While many see Labor Day as the traditional end of summer, Matt Harrington thinks of only one word, and has been saying it for the better part of this year. Garlicfest.



Harrington, who has been the executive director of the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce for the last few years, quickly learned the grand celebration known as the Southern Vermont Garlic and Herb Festival is actually not only the town's biggest annual event, but also a huge boon for the entire region.



"I've used the term `Super Bowl' to describe it," Harrington said. "Garlicfest has grown so much from year to year and planning starts the winter prior. It's the biggest thing happening in the region attendance-wise. And yes, we like to say it stinks!"



Those crowds, according to Harrington, have approached 15,000, and could very well surpass that this year.



"Hence the long planning cycle," he said.



The festival will be held Saturday, Sept. 2, and Sunday, Sept. 3, in Bennington, at the base of Colgate Heights in the town's west end, on the grounds of the Camelot Village antiques and crafts shopping center.



The celebration is meant to honor and promote all things garlic and herbal. Lindy Lynch, who is a past president of the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce, Garlicfest 2017's organizer, and chairwoman of the festival's organizing committee, added that there's more to it.



"Garlicfest crowds have grown every year since its move to Bennington," Lynch said, referring to its original location in Wilmington, Vt. "The entire event is one big family gathering where people can roam and take in food, music and more. Kids can also explore so many fun things, and while garlic is definitely the theme, hundreds of regional vendors add to making it such a great time for the family."



But those good times take extensive resources to execute, and the success of Garlicfest almost always resides in its large cadre of volunteer workers, said Lynch.



"Volunteers are welcome right up to the last minute," Lynch emphasized. "Whoever is interested please contact the Bennington Chamber for details, and your presence will be greatly appreciated."



Family fun




Garlicfest 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 wreathes, to garlic chocolate. There will also be the traditional items for garlic lovers and items for the more adventurous.



Entertainment includes a full food court of more than 20 vendors — another high for the festival. They will include Lemon Love, Pops (popcorn), Bart's Ice Cream, Good To Go (dumplings), Loopy's (crepes, espresso, and smoothies), and Sherri's Crabcakes.



Among the local vendors will be Bennington Lions' Club, Ramunto's Pizza, and Hound Dogs. Harrington said several new food vendors have been added including Reggae Boy Caf (Jamaican food), Caja Madera (Mexican food), RJ's Famous, and Vermont Botanical Beverages.



In addition, Garlicfest is well known for its live music. A number of acts will perform in a variety of genres. Saturday includes Aviva, Hill Hollow, Julie Shea Band, and The Legato Blues Band. Sunday has Ray Gifford, Carma, Roadhouse, and Funk in the Trunk.



Ramunto's will also run and sponsor the Beer and Wine Garden. Its tent will offer Vermont Craft Brews, wine, specialty drinks like Garlic Bloody Marys and Garlic Margaritas, giveaways and raffles all weekend.



Garlic-centered vendors abound with a bit of the eccentric, such as garlic braiding and weed walks, which extol the virtue of weeds for medicinal purposes.



Traditional cooking demonstrations with a garlic theme are also well-attended, as well as the familiar arts and crafts vendors of most regional festivals.



Stephen Lawrence, a long-time Garlicfest food vendor and general manager of Spice Root Indian Cuisine in Williamstown, Mass., said that garlic is not just a spice used in many Indian delicacies, but also recognized worldwide.

Lawrence said he believes Garlicfest is "a destination for local businesses and vendors" and what makes it special is the ability to bring along the entire family, even when working. He claimed that shows "the great spirit of Garlicfest."



"Garlic is used in kitchens all over the world," Lawrence said. "I'm not only a vendor there but a husband and father. My family comes along and has a great time."

— Reach award-winning freelance journalist Telly Halkias at tchalkias@aol.com, or on Twitter: @TellyHalkias

Don't miss any garlic action this weekend. Here's a schedule of festival events:

SATURDAY

Demonstrations

11 a.m.: Arlotta Food Studio, "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Olive Oil."

Noon: Saxtons Rivers Distillery cocktail demonstration and tasting.

1 p.m.: Vermont Gold Mountain Prospecting, "Gold Panning and Gold Prospecting in Vermont."

2 p.m.: Fox Hollow Farm, "Planting, Growing, Harvesting and Storing Garlic."

3 p.m.: Gra den Talun Farm, "Garlic Growing 101: How to Grow Your Own Garlic at Home."

Family Fun

Located in the Blue and White Tent

10 a.m. to 5 p.m.: The Gamer's Grotto.

10 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Vermont Wooden Blocks.

1 to 5 p.m.: Incredible Larry.

2 to 3:30 a.m.: Home Depot.

Live Music

10 a.m.: Blue Jazz.

11:30 a.m.: Hill Hollow.

1 p.m.: Julie Shea.

3 p.m.: The Legato Blues Band.

SUNDAY

Demonstrations

11 a.m.: Fungi Ally, "Shitake Mushroom Log Cultivation."

Noon: Vermont Quince, "Introducing the Ancient Fruit of Happiness, Good Fortune, and Love: the Common Quince."

1 p.m.: Lindon Garlic Farm, "How to Make Homemade Garlic Powder."

2 p.m.: Arlotta Food Studio, "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Olive Oil."

3 p.m.: Rolling Rock Farm, "Making and Using Black Garlic."

Family Fun

Located in the Blue and White Tent

10 a.m. to 5 p.m.: The Gamer's Grotto.

10 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Vermont Wooden Blocks.

1 to 5 p.m.: Incredible Larry.

Live Music

10 a.m.: Ray Gifford.

11:30 a.m.:Carma.

1 p.m.: Roadhouse.

3 p.m.: Beard and Glasses.




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