Photos & Story by Dave Warner

The weather was perfect, crowd size was spectacular and the layout of the festival was wonderful as the 2018 Mohawk Valley Garlic & Herb Festival came to a close. According to festival organizers, they are estimating the crowd size at 3,500 people.

It’s hard to get an accurate account for events like this, but each year the Garlic Festival Committee is making progress towards being more accurate. According to festival organizer Gail Rochette “People came and they stay, and stayed, and then new people came and THEY stayed…that’s why it seemed like so many more people to me I think.”

Every one of the attendees MLF talked to had nothing but positive things to say about the event. Rob Carlson of Salisbury said “we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves this year and spent a lot of time there. I think it was the best one yet.”

People thought the layout was great with plenty of room to move around. And the food court? Well, that was a big hit with everyone as well. According to Rochette “It was a perfect day. We had 82 vendors and two bands. Because the weather was perfect, it felt so much more like a party atmosphere. There were people dancing along as they did their thing!”

It seemed like the crowd was interacting with the vendors a lot more. “I couldn’t get near some of the farmers because they were so engaged with customers – just talking and talking. The people seemed more interested than in the past,” said Rochette.

Moving all the food vendors together on one street created a sort of food court “and that changed everything,” she said. “Southern Girl sold out and had to go get supplies and Promise Land sold out of several things. They were literally blown away by this festival and they’ve done almost every one we’ve had. All the food vendors were thrilled.”

In fact, Rochette said “I didn’t talk to one vendor that was unhappy with sales.”

Lots of the vendors said they would have to bring additional product for next year’s festival. “The park was a new space for us to put regular vendors, and one of them had a spicy tomato dipping sauce and they completely sold out telling us this was their best event ever,” said Rochette. “They were over the moon – they couldn’t believe it.”

As for actual garlic vendors, people who JUST specialize in garlic, the festival is going to limit it to the 23-25 that they have now. “We won’t go more than that. We are so vendor oriented…the whole purpose of this thing is that the vendors are supposed to make a fortune that day,” said Rochette. “I expect you to have the best sales you’ve ever had,” she told them.

The artisans at the event add a nice flavor for the crowds and variety and food vendors feed everyone that shows up, but Garlic is the focus. According to Rochette, New York has some really interesting polices to help you bottle up grandma’s special sauce. “They call it Artisan Food Producers, and it’s a really good thing. It helps the farmer who says ‘I want to pickle my beets, pickle my garlic sticks’.”

Part of the donations that are collected on entry to the festival go to the Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts. According to Rochette “it looks like it’s going to be well over $4,000, but we have 3 or 4 people still counting, so we don’t have the exact amount. That’s another big part of what we do – give away 1/3 of those donations.”

Next year, they plan to spend more money on signage to help people find the event.

If you’re interested in finding out more, you can visit the Garlic Festival website, but in the meantime, keep your calendar open for next years festival on September 14, 2019.