No Vampires Here: 23rd Annual Garlic Festival

Piedmonte Garlic Farm, Albion N.Y., had certified organic Vietnamese Purple, Yugoslavian Softneck and Rojo de Cuenca varities of garlic. Photo by Faith Gimzek. The 23rd annual Hudson Valley Garlic Festival returned to Saugerties this weekend, enticing garlic lovers to try sweet and savory edibles such as garlic-flavored marshmallows, garlic ice cream, pickled garlic, and garlic cheese curds.

Eating wasn’t all there was to do– there was arts and crafts vendors, chef cooking demonstrations and music. The gigantic garlicky get-together was held Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Cantine Field with $10 admission.

Pat Reppert, of Shale Hill Farm and Herb Garden, founded the first festival in 1989 as a promotional event for her herbs and New York garlic. There were about 100 people in attendance that year, but through word-of-mouth, by the second year it had quadrupled in size. By 1992, attendance had increased so much that Reppert asked the Kiwanis Club of Saugerties to help organize the now-popular culinary tourism event. The largest turnout on record was 50,000 people in 2004.

In recent years, attendance has been between 30,000 and 40,000, according to Beth Bechtold, festival publicity director. Since the Kiwanis Club started sponsoring the festival, it has provided $1 million to the local community through donations, such as scholarships to Saugerties High School students, the Girl Scouts and the local Boys and Girls Club.

This year, there were over 244 vendors and 67 heirloom varieties of garlic from 58 local garlic farms.  Popular garlic varieties included Russian Red, Italian Purple and Spanish Roja.

Jay Siemion of Summit Naturals farm had a unique heirloom garlic variety for sale called Summit Shock. Siemion said a friend gave his family the bulbs to grow. Since it didn’t have a name, his family nicknamed the strain, Summit Shock after Summit Shock Incarceration Correctional Facility, a nearby juvenile detention center.

The name was given “because of the shocking hot and spicy flavor it had,” he said with a laugh.

Gary and Caroline Vincent of Mountaindale Farms, in East Stroudsburg, Pa., served up a “Garple Elixir,” which is a mixture of garlic, apple cider and maple syrup that they blend themselves. They also served garlic chocolate chip cookies.

“Chocolate and garlic go together,” said Gary Vincent.

Celebrity Chef Ric Orlando, of New World Café in Woodstock, performed a cooking demonstration at 2 p.m. at the festival. The recipe was roasted garlic caramel over vanilla ice cream. Orlando garnered a lot of laughs from the packed tent.

“This recipe calls for four cloves of garlic, so I’m going to use eight,” he said, “because we’re at the garlic festival.”

Orlando also spoke about the health benefits of garlic, such as its antifungal, antibacterial and antioxidant-rich properties.Andy Burke and Britton Davis, both of Gloucester, MA., performed at the festival with their group, One World Puppetry and Performance Art. She was dressed as the Garlic Fairy, and Burke, dressed in a garlic costume, as the Garlic Giant.

Andy Burke and Britton Davis, both of Gloucester, MA., performed at the festival with their group, One World Puppetry and Performance Art. “We come to town early every year to enjoy the beautiful area,” said Davis. She was dressed as the Garlic Fairy, and Burke, dressed in a garlic costume, as the Garlic Giant.