Follow your nose to the North Quabbin Garlic & Arts Festival
By Richard Morchoe
It bills itself as “The festival that stinks.” One might be put off by such a motto. After all, it could turn out to be a gathering of owners of show-quality skunks.
That is not the case with the North Quabbin Garlic & Arts Festival. It is all things garlic, but also it is a celebration of the arts and agriculture.
The 17th festival will take place Sept. 26-27. That the festival has lasted so long is a tribute to the devotion and tenacity of the founders. The first festival was held the day after a heavy storm, and it did not look as if it would come off. However, the clouds parted, the sun shone, and it was the beginning of what has become a local institution. After that first success, the venue was moved to Foster’s Farm in Orange and has been held there ever since.
The Garlic & Arts Festival thrives on volunteers, but it is fortunate that a couple of the founders have been guiding the event all these years.
Deb Habib and Ricky Baruc are the founders and moving spirits behind Seeds of Solidarity. The couple started Seeds of Solidarity Farm and Seeds of Solidarity Education Center, Inc. in 1996. They met on Cape Cod, at the New Alchemy Institute, which promotes no-till sustainable agriculture and energy-efficient practices, among other goals.
Needless to say, Habib and Baruc grow wonderful garlic. What to do with it? The couple and artist friends – Jim and Alyssa Fountain and Lydia Grey – brainstormed it at a potluck. Thus, a festival celebrating garlic and art was born.
A wonderful aspect of the event is the continuity. The vibe of a community – if not a counter-culture – is there every year. That said, there is always something new. What is really a pleasure is that unlike many other events, the team has kept the cost low. It is only $5 per person and $8 for the weekend.
And what a weekend it is!
Start with the garlic, of course. A rite of passage that should not be missed is garlic ice cream. The taste is interesting and not unenjoyable. It is purveyed by local maker, Bart’s. Worthy as it is, don’t bet on it exceeding the salted caramel flavor in popularity.
There is more to eat than ice cream, and most of it includes the veggie of the day. You can get Thai, pizza, Afghan, Mexican and other cuisine with garlic. Chase Hill’s cows will provide you with garlic cheese. The People’s Pint won’t be bringing its famous beers, but it will have garlic barbecue sauce. Orange’s own Kelly’s Cupcakes will have one with garlic. If that doesn’t tempt you, there’s Sweetest Memories’ Garlic Fudge.
Not every food item is garlicky, and other choices exist. When you have eaten your fill, you might want to learn how to grow it. Seeds of Solidarity will host workshops several times throughout the weekend.
Man – and for that matter, woman – does not live by garlic alone. Demos and workshops on many subjects will be available throughout the festival. Have you ever wanted to make your own herb tinctures? Worm composting? Grow mushrooms in mulch? Well, those and many other skills will be on offer for those wishing to explore something new.
Farms from all over the North Quabbin Region and environs will have stands with food and farm products to take home. The usual lovingly raised vegetables, plus those not seen at your average supermarket, will be proffered. Fermented vegetables from pickles to kimchi have a following, as do horseradish and roasted chiles.
Healthy pastured meats and cheeses raised on lush local grass can be had. Yarns and knitteds from sheep and alpacas, as well as sheepskins, will be available.
Sustainability and renewable energy are a big part of the weekend. Learn about coop power and photovoltaics. Meanwhile, Ben Goldberg will take sustainable to a higher level with composting toilets.
This is also an arts festival, and there is no dearth of crafters. There are painters, photographers, weavers, jewelers, leather-workers and more. It would almost be easier to list the arts not on display.
There is art and food at the festival, as well as food for thought. Sometimes, though, one would just like to be entertained. There are not one, but two stages. Children and moms and dads can participate and watch activities at the family stage. The Skeleton Crew will wander the festival both days, providing its mix of scavenger hunt and theater. On the Main Stage, there will be music and dance from Celtic to Klezmer all weekend.
Sometimes, the days of the North Quabbin Garlic & Arts Festival have been overcast. On other festival weekends, the autumn sun has been glorious. No matter, I have always had a fine time. Where else can you experience two days of “peace, love and garlic?”
The North Quabbin Garlic & Arts Festival will be held Sept. 26-27 in Orange. Tickets are $5 for the day and $8 for the weekend. For more information and directions, visit garlicandarts.org.