Saugerties has built a glorious tradition around a stinking weed

Garlic and handmade garlic keepers (photo by Phyllis McCabe)

Garlic and handmade garlic keepers (photo by Phyllis McCabe)

Garlic-flavored gelato?

It’s a treat only available at a garlic festival. The gelato, cannoli cream and other garlic-flavored delicacies were staples of Caffe Aurora’s booth at the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival at Cantine Field last Saturday and Sunday.

“The beauty of garlic, if you roast it, it sweetens,” said proprietor Lou Strippoli, who generally sells his goods – which don’t include garlic sweets – at his store in Poughkeepsie. He said the Saugerties festival was the only off-premise place he sells, and this is his tenth year. “It’s a very well-run festival, and we meet a lot of people who become regular customers,” he said. “We’re very impressed with the organization, the layout. And it’s a nice, nice place to go.”

Many other food vendors offered versions of their specialties containing garlic, along with more traditional versions. There were also various relishes and sauces for sale, many garlic-based, offered by the 43 food vendors listed on the festival map. This list also included not-for-profit organizations distributing literature or information or selling food, including the Boy Scouts, churches and the Elks.


A total of 249 participating vendors and organizations are listed on the visitors’ map. Among them was Saugerties Tourism, which director Marjorie Block said was distributing new material to promote the town to the many visitors the event draws to the community.

But the main attraction was the garlic, which includes varieties ranging from mild to very hot.

Growing garlic takes rain, but Karen Bouchard of Bouchard Farm said she was concerned that the rain predicted for the weekend might ruin the festival. The rain never came. “We’re having a great weekend, the weather didn’t drive people away,” Bouchard said.

While the farm produces a variety of organic vegetables and meat, which the family sells at farmers’ markets, “here we just sell garlic.” Bouchard Farm has been at the Saugerties Garlic Festival for ten years, and the family sells at other festivals as well.

While attendance appeared to be good, farmer Bob Ireland said the day could have been better. “The change of date [from the last weekend in September to the first in October] didn’t help,” he said. “People mark their calendars, and they set the weekend aside.” In addition to garlic, Ireland Farm offered potatoes, onions, shallots and peppers.

Other farm vendors had apples, pumpkins, carrots and other vegetables along with their garlic.

Vendors included Natural Skin Therapies of Albany, which makes and sells Rad Soap. The company goes to some 45 crafts and food gatherings a year, “and this one is in our top five,” said owner Sue Kerber. “We get a lot of customers who then turn to the Internet.” Natural Skin Therapy ships all over the United Sates and the world, she said. She and her husband are in the process of creating their first brick-and-mortar store in Poughkeepsie.

A print of the Saugerties Lighthouse led to a conversation with Gerald Hardy who, with his wife, Marilyn Davis, paints landscapes and village scenes under the trade name of “Favorite Places.” They’re from Falls Village, Connecticut, about an hour and a half east of Saugerties.

“We just sell at festivals,” he said. “We don’t like to spend a lot of time in the studio when we can talk to more people here. We like this show. It’s been good for us. This is our third year. This is a very well-run show, and the people are nice.”

The many non-food items offered by crafts people or vendors included clothing, ceramics, paintings, photographs, cosmetics and food-preparation tools, such as Bill Gowdy’s ceramic grater, which he boasted grates garlic finer than traditional graters without the danger of cut fingers and is much easier to clean up than a garlic press.