It might be a good time stock up on the Binaca before Labor Day weekend. The Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce will be hosting its annual Garlic and Herb Festival in Downtown Bennington, VT, on Saturday, September 4, with organizers transforming the town into “Garlic Town, USA.”
For the uninitiated, pre-pandemic, the Garlic Fest saw crowds of more than 16,000 attend the garlic-themed event, and it welcomed in some 200 garlic-themed vendors. Last year’s Garlic Fest, which was its 25th-anniversary celebration, was scaled back dramatically due to the pandemic and Vermont’s restrictions on festivals. Rebranded “Garlic Town, USA,” the event ended up hosting 3,000 residents and travelers, who were able to safely enjoy sidewalk sales; restaurant specials; live bands; hay wagon rides; and multiple “Cloves,” or pockets of garlic-growing vendors positioned throughout the town. Last year’s event also kicked off the inaugural Garlic Bulb River Derby, during which 100 numbered plastic garlic bulbs were raced down the Walloomsac River.
“Garlic Fest is an iconic event in Bennington and all of Vermont,” says Matt Harrington, executive director of the Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce, which produces the festival. “It is a mixture of community building and economic growth as many of our hotels, restaurants and merchants benefit from the large event and large crowds. We like to think of it as one last great social outings of the summer and a welcome to fall and the harvest season here in Vermont. Based on last year’s success with ‘Garlic Town, USA’ and still feeling like patrons will be cautious as they begin to get back to normal, we decided to move forward with another Garlic Town event.”
This year’s “Garlic Town, USA” will once again feature sidewalk sales hosted by Downtown Bennington’s small businesses, area nonprofits will provide music and kids’ activities, and local restaurants are being encouraged to provide some outdoor entertainment as well. Also returning? The garlic vendor–centric Cloves set up in clusters around town. This year’s event will feature more than 100 vendors, and each Clove will be like its own mini–Garlic Fest, with representatives from some of the first Garlic Fests, as well as arts and craft vendors and a variety of food trucks and dessert carts.
The “Garlic Town, USA” committee has been working with officials at the Vermont Department of Health and the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in preparation for this event. “We are trying to provide an event that people feel comfortable and safe to get back into social settings,” states Harrington. “At every step of this new event, safety was top of mind. The committee leaders around the table were extremely sensitive about how to do this fun event while the COVID pandemic subsides. We will have volunteers at every Clove and public gathering spots armed with PPE for patrons, and hand sanitizer. Mainly, we just want people to have fun and get back to normal!”
Would-be “Garlic Town, USA” attendees can purchase passes here.