"Garlic Fest" returns this weekend

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BENNINGTON — One word is sure to be on the lips — and breath — of many people here this weekend: Garlic.

The odoriferous bulbous plant will be celebrated with plenty of food, culinary demonstrations, live music, and more than 200 vendors when the 22nd annual Southern Vermont Garlic and Herb Festival returns this weekend to Camelot Village in Bennington. It runs both days from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

"Garlic Fest," as it's often called, is "Bennington's premier event," according to Matt Harrington, executive director for the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce, who said vendors from points near and far make a point to return each year.

"We hear from vendors every year that this is a real Vermont experience," Harrington said at the grounds on Wednesday.

Vendors, kids activities, food trucks, a beer and wine garden, and regional live bands are all on tap. A complete list of vendors and activities and happenings are available online: www.bennington.com/garlicfest.

Crews have been at the grounds since Monday, Harrington said. They're been responsible for setting up tents, painting picnic tables. The parking team is headed by Brenda Jones . Mike Baker helps with the field layout and maps.

Prior to this week, the chamber partnered with Camelot Village to grade and clean up the grounds' driveway, Harrington said.

Planning starts as far back as November, Harrington said. But for Lindy Lynch, it's year round.

"I already have a sheet for things to tweak next year," she said.

Lynch, past president of the Bennington Chamber and a longtime Garlicfest organizer, called it a "signature event."

"It's a phenomenal economic driver for the community," she said. It brings thousands of people to the southwestern corner of Vermont, a chance for lodging and restaurants to fill beds and seats. "We hope that once they find Bennington, they'll come back, and even start a business," she said.

There's still a chance to volunteer — parking directors and "vendor captains" (who help lead vendors to their designated spaces starting Saturday at 9 a.m.) will likely be needed, Lynch said. Volunteers are repaid with free admission, a t-shirt, and tasty food. How to volunteer? Call the chamber office or show up the day of, Lynch said.

The festival has grown since it began in 1995 as a farmers market in Wilmington under the direction of the late Steve Wrathall and Joy Powell. It's been hosted at Camelot Village since 2007 and is organized by the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce. Festival-goers last year helped break a record: 15,000 attendees turned out.

Food demonstrations will including aptly named sessions titled "How to Grow Your Own Garlic at Home" by Gra den Talun Farm of White Creek, N.Y.; "Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Olive Oil" by the Arlotta Food Studio of Watermill, N.Y.; and "Shitake Mushroom Log Cultivation," Fungi Ally, Hadley, Mass.

Live music will include Julie Shea, The Legato Blues Band, Beard and Glasses and more.

The family-friendly event will also host activities for kids, with local Gamers Grotto, local startup Vermont Wooden Blocks, the Incredible Larry planning to be there both days, and Home Depot on Saturday.

Visit LoveGarlic.com for more information.

Reach staff writer Edward Damon at 802-447-7567, ext. 111 or @edamon_banner.

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