Monday, September 21, 2015

Celebrating the "Stinky Rose" at Vermont's Garlic and Herb Festival

by Deb Wojcicki / New England Fall Events

Southern VT Garlic and Herb Festival_New England Fall Events_Hard neck Garlic
New England Fall Events visited the Annual Southern Vermont Garlic & Herb Festival in Bennington, Vermont in early September.
The 2016 VT Garlic and Herb Festival will be held Saturday and Sunday, September 3rd & 4th, 2016. Click for event details.

True to its name, this award-winning festival is paradise for aficionados of the stinking rose. With just under 200 vendors this year, the two-day festival has a little something for everyone (even non-garlic eaters) and offers hours of entertainment for the entire family. To be clear, this is a "bucket list" festival--one of those events that you must experience at least once in your lifetime.

Held at picturesque Camelot Village, our day was filled with live music, all manner of food to sample or to purchase, and there was even a tented pub to relax and enjoy a garlic margarita. If you're into antiques, the Antique Center at Camelot Village is not to be missed.
Although there were dozens of vendors selling colorful baskets, unique jewelry and stunning artwork, this is largely a food festival where you'll have the opportunity to try pretty much garlic everything; garlic-infused lemonade, fudge, pickles, hot sauce, jelly, sausages, jerky, chocolate chip shortbread cookies... you name it and someone here has likely made it - even garlic soap, guaranteed to keep away "vampires, mosquitoes and in-laws."

But let's talk garlic ice cream for a moment. We stopped at Times Square Catering from Albany, NY for a cool taste of their homemade garlic ice cream and dare we say, life-altering deliciousness ensued. To put this experience in perspective, this was not a little garlic added to some vanilla ice cream for gratuitous effect. Oh no, this was bold, in-your-face, roasted garlic goodness completely departing from the expectations usually associated with frozen dairy products. Truly amazing.

We also munched on chocolate-covered bacon from Bennington's own The Village Chocolate Shop. Okay, maybe there was no actual garlic in these sweet and salty tidbits, but how could we not try it?  An equally fabulous experience - tasted a bit like chocolate-covered caramel, although we're a little fuzzy on the culinary alchemy involved.

Interesting and diverse demonstrations ran both days, including Outdoor Cultivation and Foraging Skills, Growing a Pepper Garden in the North Country, All About Garlic and How to Make Homemade Garlic Powder, to name but a few.

Southern VT Garlic and Herb Festival_New England Fall Events_Black Garlic Hard neck GarlicGarlic bulbs were offered for sale throughout the festival - too many varieties to count. These could be purchased for cooking or to plant in your own garden, if you are so inclined.

Throughout the day, kids rode the perimeter of the festival on Thomas the Train, squealed in delight watching jugglers and comedians, and burned off energy as they played in the various themed bounce houses. A colorfully-dressed man on stilts wandered the festival entertaining the crowd.  And if your kids are not fans of garlic, not to worry - there are plenty of non-garlic edibles to be had as well, like BBQ chicken, corn-on-the-cob and wood-fired pizza.

Undoubtedly one of the best run festivals in New England, they've pretty much thought of every convenience. When you arrive, you'll be directed to a parking space in a large field adjacent to the festival by smiling volunteers wielding colorful pool noodles. Tractors towing wagons shuttle people to and from the parking lot, although most people will find the festival within comfortable walking distance.

You'll find Porta-Potties galore, in the parking lot as well as at the festival, each with its own bottle of hand sanitizer. There are also restrooms inside the antique shop, although these are limited.

A first-aid station and an ambulance were also available on-site, just in case. There were really no lines to speak of, except maybe waiting a few minutes to buy your tickets or to get in and out of the parking lot, but traffic control was very efficient and everyone really quite pleasant.

There is nothing about a ride through the beautiful Vermont countryside, the friendly people you will meet or the entertainment you will enjoy to possibly regret making the trip to the Southern Vermont Garlic & Herb Festival. Over the past 20 years, this event has grown into a destination unto itself and we can only imagine that next year will be even better.

Tips for Visiting the Southern Vermont Garlic & Herb Festival
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This event is held rain or shine, so bring the appropriate accouterments - hats, shades, sunscreen, umbrellas or raincoats, depending on the forecast. There are some indoor areas as well as vendor tents, but essentially this is an outdoor event.
If you or a member of your party need special accommodations for parking, ask one of the parking attendants for assistance; you may be able to park closer to the event or if not, they will be able to facilitate drop off/pick-up. There are also shuttles to and from the parking lot (tractor and wagon), although the wagons are not readily wheelchair accessible.

Southern VT Garlic and Herb Festival_New England Fall Events_Seven Barrels Vinegar Oil
Wear comfortable shoes - you will be parking in a mowed field and the festival is set up in an adjacent field. The ground is relatively level, but it's still a field.

It's a big festival, so expect to spend at least a couple of hours just to see everything and taste your way through.  If you partake of the educational demonstrations, stop for a nice lunch and maybe take in some of the entertainment, you could spend the entire day here.

All vendors take cash; some also take credit cards.  If you're going with cash, bring small bills to facilitate transactions.

Southern VT Garlic and Herb Festival_New England Fall Events_handpainted Garlic Onesie
Admission is paid at the door. Admission is $6 for adults and $2 for children 12 and under;  two-day passes are also available at a discount. There was a short line at the gate as people paid to get in, but it moved along quickly.

Numerous picnic tables and benches are available in the food court and near the stage so you can sit and rest or enjoy a meal with a touch of live music. 

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