BENNINGTON -- The Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce is preparing for the 19th-annual Garlic and Herb Festival at the Camelot Village, Vt. Route 9, on Labor Day Weekend, which is expected to attract garlic lovers nationwide.
The festival attracted a turnout of about 10,000 people in 2013, with about 150 vendors. Because the event has grown every consecutive year and more than 180 vendors are scheduled to arrive with a variety of unique garlic products this year, BACC executive director Joann Erenhouse expects an even greater turnout this year.
"We are well known for it: We have been recognized in the top 10 garlic festivals in the world, even though we are small compared to festivals such as the one in Gilroy," Erenhouse said. "The same vendors return year after year, and the growers bring in all different kinds of fresh garlic."
The two-day event -- slated for Saturday, Aug. 30, and Sunday, Aug. 31 -- will be the first time the festival will feature southern Vermont garlic growers. In addition to the varieties of garlic and garlic products at the festival, a full lineup of musicians, entertainers and kids' activities will be offered from open to close, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days.
New items featured this year include an organic cleaning solution made from garlic, as well as venison and ostrich egg food products.
Although the food and product vendors are coming from New York, Pennsylvania, Maine and even further, the event serves as the chamber's primary source of revenue and boosts economic activity in town.
The chamber does not receive tax dollars, and most of its other events are in collaboration with other entities. Since taking on the annual festival, the chamber has been able to keep its membership dues at a low cost and provide seed money for other area events.
Chamber member and event chair Lindy Lynch said that despite being supplied by many out-of-town and out-of-state vendors, the festival has a large economic impact every year.
"When we first started, we had a ‘restaurant row' for local businesses to serve as vendors, but believe it or not: They would become so busy at their restaurants because of garlic fest, that they couldn't do both."
Banners will be displayed and brochures will be handed out at the festival to attract visitors to other businesses in town. John Shannahan, executive director of the Better Bennington Corporation, said that because the Garlic Festival is an all weekend event and ends in the afternoon, many people will visit downtown and other commercial areas.
"Vendors alone fill up all of our local hotels, before we even talk about the three to four thousand additional people that come to town," Shannahan said. "Events like this are great for our economy."
The chamber will hold craft demonstrations and lineup a variety of musical genres so that there is something to attract the interest of all kinds of people, not just garlic lovers.
"What I have heard from the locals: Being Labor Day Weekend, many people used to leave town, but now they are bringing their families here for the weekend," Lynch said.
Childrens' events include a pie eating contest, shows by Bowey the Clown and games sponsored by the Gamers Grotto.
Mount Anthony Country Club will be operating the event's beer tent, which will be located next to the entertainment stage. The musical lineup includes the Jeff McRae Band, Funk in the Trunk, Blue Sanctuary, Carma and more. Local brothers Michael Harrington of the Town of Bennington and Matt Harrington of New Directions will be emceeing the entertainment at the festival from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. both days.
Tractors will be taking festival goers to and from the parking lot during the festival to make field parking easier. Tickets are $5 for adults and $1 for children under the age of 12. No pets or smoking will be allowed.
The chamber is still looking for adult or student volunteers, who can work a minimum of a two-hour shift in exchange for free entry to the festival.
For more information about the festival, or how to volunteer, contact the chamber at (802) 447-3311 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Find the chamber at 100 Veterans Memorial Drive or online at www.bennington.com.
Contact Tom Momberg at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomMomberg