GARLICFEST SOARS TO NEW HEIGHTS IN 2016
BENNINGTON, VT - The 21st Annual Southern Vermont Garlic and Herb Festival soared to record-breaking heights this past Labor Day Weekend on the grounds of Camelot Village. With beautiful weather and over 100 volunteers helping the festival run smoothly, the two gates saw well over 15,000 people attend.
Gates opened at 10am on both Saturday and Sunday and attendees ate garlic, shopped, strolled among the over 200 vendors, listened to eight live bands and enjoyed the last days of summer.
“We saw 8,000 festival-goers on Saturday and a little over 7,000 on Sunday,” reports Matt Harrington the executive director of the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce, who coordinates the event. “We captured this by using a ticket process this year that helped us calculate the numbers.”
“The feedback we’ve received in person, through surveys, vendor feedback and on social media has been overwhelmingly positive. This is our Superbowl so we pull out all the stops for this great event. This year we’ve really tweaked things and I think they were a big hit. Parking was as smooth as anyone could expect with thousands trying to get into the festival. This was our first attempt at Wi-Fi Internet capability for vendors as they try to access new card readers. Although there were a few bumps in the beginning, we got everything running. We also tried out a new trash-recycling-compost style of waste management with TAM, which I think really worked as we look to be more environmentally conscious. I think having ‘Funk In The Trunk’ play their last concert here was bittersweet, but also helped push our attendance numbers up near the end of the festival when it has historically slowed down.”
The Garlicfest Merchandise Booth was also a big hit this year. “We’ve had merchandise before, but I think we really put some effort behind design and what the public wanted this year,” adds Harrington. “This year we sold out of many things in the first day. We had a great group of volunteers working the merchandise booth which featured a revamped logo and new assortment of Garlicfest t-shirts, hats, pint glasses, bags, stickers, and more.”
Garlicfest has grown and matured over the years. Lindy Lynch, Chair of the Event Committee of the Bennington Chamber of Commerce who puts on the event, has been at this task for nearly 12 years. Before that the Garlicfest was located in Wilmington under the direction of the late Steve Wrathall and Joy Powell as it started as a smaller “farmers' market” style festival until it grew to a size that required a larger venue in 2007. That year, with the help of Steve and Joy, the Bennington Chamber purchased the rights to Garlicfest and brought it to Camelot Village on Route 9.
Harrington adds, “This isn’t an ‘economic silver bullet,’ but I think it does help. When you reach a critical mass of this portion, it has to influence your local economy. We will be checking in during the week to see how our local members especially our shops, lodges and restaurants did this weekend. We had many local vendors participate at Garlicfest and we’re hoping the crowds went downtown to check out our fun town afterwards. The Chamber is very dedicated to using all the tools in our toolbox to help pump up Bennington both from a tourist perspective and a business development perspective. We think the Garlicfest is one of our best tools to do that!”