On my flight from Atlanta to Boston I was greeted by thunderstorms, rain and resulting travel delays. I’d been visiting my daughter, Jennifer and her family in Atlanta for a few weeks, and was headed to Western MA to reunite with my husband. Unfortunately, upon departing Logan Airport I found myself standing in Boston’s South Station amongst throngs of wet and weary fellow travelers. Worse yet, I’d come down with a bug. In any case, I managed to find my way to my daughter a few hours later. Heather’s apartment is in Worcester – a city due west of Boston where she goes to Grad school. Nestled into the safety of her place, she nursed me back to health over the next few days in her cozy apartment where she and our cat, Gracie lives. It was great fun hanging out, cooking, and catching up there.
So it was time meet up with my husband Western Massachusetts. He told me about this Garlic & Arts Festival that was happening in a little town called Orange. Since I was headed there anyway, I thought it might be fun. You see, Rich and I lived in Orange for quite a few years, back 12 years ago before moving to CA, so I decided to check it out. I was curious. I mean, what kind of festival features garlic as its’ main event?
Heather and her boyfriend drove me up there for the afternoon, and we took the back roads. What a beautiful trip, winding our way through small villages and town commons, dotted with crisp, white churches, steeples, tidy homes, and leaves that were beginning to turn colors! I haven’t been back to New England for about five years, so I felt a bit like a newcomer, taking in the lush scenery, including the numerous ponds that I’d taken for granted when I lived there.
About halfway up the road to Orange we found a real treat – a local breakfast spot called the Kozy Kabin Restaurant, just outside the quaint town of Barre. I was surprised to see it was still open, since my dad and I used to go there when I was a child. Turns out the food was delicious, with garlic-dill toast, veggie omelets and and friendly service. I learned that it had been in business for over 30 years- no small achievement! All this accomplished in a large room that had windows trimmed in red, gingham checks and walls framed in knotty pine boards that smacked of the ’70’s. How great!
We arrived at the Garlic & Arts Festival to find it stocked full of relaxed, friendly volunteers, who waved us into one of the grassy parking spots. Their organization was impressive, and within minutes we walked onto the bustling grounds.
The festival was started about 12 years ago, when several local farmers and artists got together over dinner to hatch the idea for a festival that would feature garlic and other produce grown in the region, as well as quality arts and crafts made by skilled artisans in Western Massachusetts. The idea was to boost the economics of farmers and artisans alike, once a year in the local farm setting.
Heather, Ron and I paid the modest $5. entry fee and headed toward the many booths. The air was crisp, the sky was blue, and I was glad to be here! We browsed through vendor’s wares that included renewable energy, agriculture, arts, food, travel, and the healing arts.
There was plenty to take in for all the senses. There were pleasant, lively songs wafting from the Family Stage, the appetizing smells of a cooking demo, fresh apple cider scenting the air, and the overwhelming smell of autumn leaves. A lively hula-hoop competition ensued, and there was even a raw garlic eating competition. For relaxation, guests enjoyed massages and Reiki demonstrations under brightly colored tents.
I was also pleased with the ‘green’ theme that I saw throughout the festival. There were compost bins, recycling efforts, a composting toilet and renewable energy demonstrations everywhere. So great to see!
The motto of the festival is:
Art is to the soul what garlic is to the palate. Just as garlic spices our daily food, art spices our daily life!
This theme permeated the festival, and I was impressed with the quality and care that was evident in every product, whether it was maple syrup products, fine art giclees, recycled purses, or hand-crafted pottery. To complete our sensory experience, Ron and I bought an ice cream cone from the local favorite producer, Bart’s Ice Cream. Heather opted for chai tea and some fresh produce, and we headed out of the event content and satisfied. With this kind of offering, plus great sponsorship and volunteerism, it’s easy to see why this event continues to grow each year!
Ten minutes up the road, we came into the center of Orange, and up the side street to the lovely home where Rich’s mom lives. Rich and I are staying there through mid-November, and his sister, Hannah was also visiting. It was great to see them, who greeted us as Heather and I said our goodbyes for now.