The North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival in Orange, MA, has to be one of the best organized, most fun, most educational, most artistic, most inspiring festivals I have ever attended. It all began with a conversation under a tree, and now, 11 years later 12,000 people find their way to this small town to enjoy a fabulous day in the autumn sun. Or autumn showers as the case may be.
The solar powered main stage provides music of many types.
There is also a Family Stage with lots of events that families will particularly enjoy. This juggler, juggling 3 open lawn chairs, and later juggling, a torch, a machete and an apple (which he ate mid-juggle) while on his 7 foot unicycle was one of the funniest acts I have ever seen. The crowd agreed. Lots of audience participation.
Hayrides went on all weekend. The kids loved it, but there was a lot for the young set. And the young at heart set. A garlic toss, Egg toss (messier than the garlic toss), a Tug of Garlic, and a Garlic Sack Race. There was a garlic limbo and the Famous Raw Garlic Eating Contest.
Some people preferred to watch garlic cooking demonstrations, like this one with Andy Sussman, chef and caterer. My friend, Mary Nelen of Valley Locavore fame, was going to give a demo on canning tomatoes.
Some people just preferred to eat and had many many choices from your regular hamburger and hot dog to vegetarian stir fries to a Garlic Lovers Plate from Seeds of Solidarity Farm to Sidehill Farm Yogurt Smoothies made with the help of solar power. Garlic in (nearly) everything, including Bart’s Ice Cream. there were also all kinds of drinks for sale, but you could also get a drink of good Orange water anytime you were thirsty. Or rinse your hands. It was nice not to have to drag along a water bottle, and I’ll bet parents were happy not to have to provide a carload of kids with their drinks of choice all day long.
Everyone was on their greenest behavior and composted their trash. Of course, the organizers helped by supplying compostable plates, cups and eating utensils, and setting up several composting stations. They were also selling bags of compost made from last years trash.
A garlic festival has to have garlic to take home.
There was garlic to plant, and garlic to bring home to saute or roast or add to just about anything. This year for the first time I will be planting garlic.
Ricky of Seeds of Solidarity Farm (and one of the festival’s founders) demonstrated how to plant garlic, how to use his cardboard gardening system, and answered general garden questions. Ricky is a passionate teacher, as well as a passionate farmer. His wife, Deb Habib, is also passionate, about gardens, school gardens, hospital gardens, children’s gardens, children’s diet and health. She also oversees the Seeds of Leadership (SOL) garden, and works with students once a week after school during the summer. The harvest goes to senior meal sites and food pantries as well as the students’, own kitchens.
Stinkin Crew volunteers kept things running smoothly all weekend. They are among the 200 volunteers that make this fabulous festival possible. And they promise that next year, when Orange celebrates its Bicentennial there will be more celebrations and events all year. Who knows what excitement there will be at the Garlic Festival.
The Dalai Lama says, “Too much negative emotions. More festivals. More picnics. Festivals are the answer to peace across the world.” Surely that is wisdom we can all get behind.