Garlic festival

ORANGE, MASS, 28 Sept — Thousands of people began making their way to a field in the middle of nowhere Saturday to enjoy the 16th annual North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival — a two-day celebration of music, garlicky cuisine, crafts, arts, family games, improv theater and garlic.

Four tents in 1998 have flourished into dozens of tents for exhibitors and vendors, featuring everything from Thai to vegan cuisine to grass-fed beef burgers, woodcraft, fiber art and clothing, herbs and spices, plants, a music venue powered by solar panels, a family stage, kids area, spoken-word stage, cooking demonstrations, chair massage, renewable energy presentations and talks, garlic games and workshops.

“It’s all about community and celebration, admission for kids 12 and under is free, we play, make things and experience art,” founder Quorus Habib said.

Kelly Laughton of East Hampton was a volunteer when she still lived in Orange during the festival’s beginnings. She now has Kelly’s Cupcakes, with a booth of her own and besides her myriad varieties of cupcakes, offers a garlic corn bread with roasted garlic goat cheese.

“This is my fourth year here and it’s incredible how much the festival has grown. And the awesome thing that happened, the more people we have had, the less trash there is every year. This festival is more of a community, the support you get, and everyone is in an excellent mood. People still came last year, even in the driving rain,” Ms. Laughton said.

Festival volunteers say that 8,000 people came in the rainy weather last year and expect 10,000 this year over the two days, with the sunny and warm weather that has been forecast.

One of the components of the festival is the recycling of almost all the trash generated to compost. Last year, even with 8,000 people coming through, eating lunch and dinner, ice cream (garlic is one of the flavors available), desserts and trade-free coffee, the festival goers had three — yes, three — bags of trash. Everything else was composted or recycled.

“We had enough compost from last year’s festival to fill 20 raised garden beds. Seeds of Solidarity (an education center and farm run by Ms. Habib and Ricky Baruc) has put in about 30 community garden beds (at day care centers, senior centers, schools and family homes); our goal is 100,” Ms. Habib said.

The farm grows at least 20 varieties of garlic for seed stock and culinary use. Phyllis Labanowski says that she sorts the tasting garlic into three categories, gentle, medium and the hot garlic — garlic hot enough to bring tears to your eyes and with names like Georgian Fire and German Red.

“The farm is post-petroleum, off the grid, with growing practices that we need for the future,” she added.

Kat Warder and Christine Olsen of Worcester tasted the more fiery garlic cloves.

“I love garlic, love the local art and performances, I come every year. Um hm, this is hot, I think it would be good in a spicy pesto,” Ms. Warder said.

The Sherzai family started cooking Afghani food for the festival 10 years ago and had people say they came to the festival just to have their kebabs and Afghani rice again.

“We got our start here and two years ago we opened Pomir Grill in Worcester on Shrewsbury Street. All our sauces are vegan,” said chef and owner Fowzia Sherzai.

For directions and more information, go to www.garlicandarts.org.

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