Tag Orange

Small Town Values: Garlic and Arts Festival

Contributed by Guest Blogger Katherine Hunt

Garlic Festival Sign

“Main Street” has received a lot of attention these days. On a weekend in late September, I made my own investigation into small-town life, but not to find out how the people there plan to vote, or whether or not they’ve started saving their pennies. Instead, I went to eat.

During my trip to the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival, in Orange, Massachusetts (population 3,950), I concluded that small town folks value delicious food. Maybe urbanites like me have more in common with that constituency than recent news reports would have me believe. At this year’s festival, visitors could sample garlic ice cream, hot pepper relish, chai tea, pickles, honey, apple cider, doughnuts, bread, maple cotton candy, and, of course, cloves of garlic. Farmers from around New England sold fresh vegetables and herbs, and displayed their animals, including ducks, rabbits, geese, and alpacas. Artists, weavers and woodworkers also peddled their wares.


The Garlic and Arts Festival attracts around 10,000 visitors each year, according to Brian Eno, one of the festival organizers. Amazingly, the previous year’s festival produced only two bags of trash – nearly everything, from silverware to water bottles to food leftovers, ends up as compost.

The Friday night before the festival gates officially opened, about one hundred volunteers and vendors enjoyed the culinary apex of the weekend: a dinner on the festival grounds to celebrate their work. Brian Eno prepared homemade hummus, tapenade, and a potent aioli featuring local garlic. At an outdoor bread oven, he baked loaf after loaf of wheat bread to accompany his spreads. And for a smaller group of his personal guests, he baked a stew-like concoction of feta and vegetables, and a pot of rice and venison.


As the evening started to cool off, people took their fresh bread and beer and circled around the fire that had been built nearby. They talked about what they wanted to eat the next day – the maple cotton candy and the pepper relish came up often – and they talked about people from previous festivals they were excited to see again. A handful stayed until late at night, drinking, putting more wood on the fire, and watching many, many stars blink overhead. Which you just don’t get to see in the city.


Hungry for garlicky recipes? Here are a couple favorites from Parties That Cook:

Boston-based freelance writer and editor Katherine Hunt may be reached at huntkr@gmail.com.