Garlicfest Looks To Be A Model Event
The 21st annual Southern Vermont Garlic and Herb Festival is September 3 and 4 of Labor Day weekend this year. The gates open at 10 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. As the event has grown over the years – with crowds now reaching 15,000 – the event has become known not only for the fun, but also for its well-run execution and social responsibility. Lindy Lynch, chair of the Event Committee at the Bennington Chamber of Commerce, who puts on the event, has been at this task for nearly 12 years. Garlicfest, which started in Wilmington under the direction of Steve Wrathall and Joy Powell, grew to a size that required a larger venue. In 2007, the Bennington Chamber purchased the rights to Garlicfest and with the help of Steve and Joy, brought it to Camelot Village on Route 9.
The Garlicfest committee begins the long process of preparing for the next year almost immediately after the last year event closes and the ink is barely dry on the vendor surveys. In January plans are underway and vendors are contacted in order to hold next year’s spots. By June, nearly 200 vendors have signed up, usually resulting in a 20 to 30 vendor waiting list by show time. Musicians, kids’ activities and additional entertainment are solidified by June. Bids go out for the Beer and Wine Garden and portable toilets in June, resulting in a bid process with the final decisions made in July. Marketing and promotional material, including placement in nearly 25 publications, is an ongoing campaign throughout the year, cresting about a month before the event with various signage appearing throughout the town.
Garlicfest also works hard to be a socially responsible event. Working with the Alliance for Community Transformation this year, the festival will provide ID scanners for the Beer and Wine Garden, and signage will be up to encourage patrons to “drink and stink responsibly,” prohibit drinking in the kids’ zone, and remind people there is no smoking.
Bennington Police Chief Paul Doucette commented, “We wish all events were like Garlicfest. This is a family friendly event where people from all walks of life can come and have fun. Drinking at the event is done responsibly, and very little if any issues ever arise out of the festival. It’s one of our favorite times of the year and we like that Bennington has pulled together another safe event for everyone to attend.”
Local waste management company TAM partners with Garlicfest and will be providing options for recycling and composting this year. “Events will, in the future, require that recycling occurs,” states Lynch. “We want to be ahead of the game by having it this year. .”
“We’ve been called the ‘Festival Town,’” indicated Matt Harrington, executive director of the Bennington Area Chamber. “I guess I hadn’t really thought about it until a couple of my peers mentioned it that way. When you think about other places in Vermont, they maybe have one or two big festivals a year. Bennington has Mayfest, Garlicfest, Pow Wow, Oktoberfest, Fallapalooza, Bennington Arts Weekend, Homebrew Fest, Midnight Madness. The list goes on. I think what really works is that we are at such a prime location to be that ‘festival town’ as we have friends and visitors come in from Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey often. In that vein, we should be leading the way in terms of festival management, safety and responsibility.”