Susan Conway of Mud Road Farm created this peace sign from garlic bulbs.
BENNINGTON, Vt. - As part of their orientation, Williams College freshmen James Allison and Alex Mendels had a chance to get a taste of Vermont this weekend.
"Well, they make great use of garlic," said Mendels, 18, of Yorktown, N.Y. "Itâ€™s very creative."
On Saturday, the two teenagers experienced the 12th annual Southern Vermont Garlic and Herb Festival as part of a school-sponsored â€˜First Daysâ€™ trip to Bennington. Held for the first time in town, the festival to celebrate the July harvest of garlic kicked off to an unprecedented number of attendees.
"The crowd just [Saturday] is double anything weâ€™ve ever done on our best day," said Steven Wrathall, who organizes the event every year with his wife, Joy Powell. "Thatâ€™s twice as many people having fun."
With crowd projections for the two-day event set at 12,000 to 14,000 people, the 50 vendors set up at Colgate Park on Route 9 will have an opportunity to show off their unique wares - everything from garlic-flavored ice cream and fudge to pottery constructed to hold garlic.
"We have so many different vendors - food, clothing, crafts - but we like to keep the theme of garlic and herbs," said Wrathall.
Formerly held in Wilmington, Vt., the festival attracts garlic-lovers from across New England and New York. With restaurants, wineries, craftsmen, herbalists, and farmers represented at the weekend event, thereâ€™s something for everyone.
"This event has a huge following," said JoAnn Erenhouse, director of the Bennington Chamber of Commerce. "Here in Vermont, weâ€™re very into fresh foods and growing our own foods, so this seems like a natural event for us."
Featured at this yearâ€™s festival is live music, inflatable bounce houses for children, free samples, face painting, braiding demonstrations and "garlic golf," in which participants attempt to sink a hole in one using a bulb of garlic.
"[The festival] is bigger and better than ever," Erenhouse said.
Admission is $5 for adults; children 12 and under get in for $1.
The festival will continue today, Sept. 2, and runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Colgate Park is at 1545 Route 9, 1.5 miles west of the four corners in Bennington.
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