Thousands of garlic-lovers flock to Saugerties for Hudson Valley Garlic Festival

A scene from last year’s festival. (Photos by Phyllis McCabe)

The Hudson Valley Garlic Festival will return with a pungent fervor to Cantine Field in Saugerties this Saturday, Sept. 28 from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m., and the next day, Sunday, Sept. 29 from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. This will be the 31st festival, and the second without event founder Pat “Goddess of Garlic” Reppert, who died last year at 81.

The event will continue in its typical format with a few new vendors, a county-wide ban on plastic bags that will be maintained on festival grounds and increased security at the venue.

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Reppert hosted the event on her own property, which she shared with her husband Edward “Rep” Reppert and on which ran a small gift and antique shop, at Shale Hill Farm for the first time in 1989. She intended to promote her fledgling herb business and promote New York-grown garlic. But the festival outgrew her expectations quickly, attracting 425 people in its second year, four times as many as the first. By the festival’s third year of operation in 1991, Reppert fielded phone calls from over 1,500 people hoping to attend; at this point, she knew that she needed help with “this garlic thing,” as she called it at the time, and called on the Kiwanis Club of Saugerties to help orchestrate. That year, when the festival moved to its current spot at Cantine Field, 5,000 people attended despite heavy rains; 13,000 attended the following year, and by 1994 the festival began occupying an entire weekend as opposed to just one day. These days, the festival attracts around 45,000 each year.

Last year, festival chairman Richard Keppler announced a $2,000 scholarship that will be given to a Saugerties High Student interested in horticulture, awarded in Reppert’s name and raised via Garlic Fest proceeds.

Highly-anticipated garlic-based foods at this year’s fest include garlic ice cream, garlic fudge, garlic caramels, garlic hummus, garlic pasta sauce, garlic olives, garlic pickles, garlic cheese, garlic chili, garlic chutney and garlic bread.

New vendors this year include Green Mountain Concessions from Bennington, Vermont, who will spin maple, honey and, of course, garlic flavored cotton candy, Saugerties’ Dutch Ale House and Wild Bill’s Old Fashioned Soda, where root beer and “some garlic concoction” will be sold, according to festival organizer Pat Praetorius. Forty-five vendors are expected to be on hand.

Cooking talent

Chef Charli Spiegel, a contestant on the 10th season of “Master Chef,” will kick off the festival’s schedule of guest speakers to demonstrate one of his favorite garlic recipes. Ric Orlando of New World Home Cooking fame, James Rollins with vegetarian dishes and Noah Sheetz of the Chef Consortium will also share their garlic recipes. Returning from last year will be Tony Sarmiento, who will tell festival-goers the secret to growing great backyard garlic at 12 p.m. on the first day of the festival and 3 p.m. on the second day. Crystal Stewart of the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Ulster County will give lectures on garlic in the Northeast at 2 p.m. each day and will be on hand to answer garlic-related questions throughout the event. Bob Dunkel of the Garlic Seed Foundation will give a lecture on the history of garlic at 3 p.m. on Saturday and 12 p.m. on Sunday, and will host a Q&A session about the foundation at 5 p.m. on Saturday. Throughout the day at the Garlic Seed Foundation Table, Robert and Frankie Yerina will show interested parties how to braid garlic.

Fun for everyone

Live entertainment will be provided by Ian Flanigan, Annie and the Hedonists, Mark Rust, Luminous Crush, James Rissacher, Bells & Motley Olden Music, The Homegrown String Band and Sundad. There will be traditional harvest dancing by Morris dancers, and One World Puppetry’s Garlic Giant and Garlic Fairy will walk the festival grounds. Saugerties-based Arm-of-the-Sea Theater will perform the “Turtle Island Medicine Show,” featuring live music and huge puppet characters.

Craft vendors will be there, and the children’s area will feature pumpkin-decorating and other fun activities organized by members of Saugerties Key Club and Saugerties Boys & Girls Club. Face-painting will be provided by the Saugerties Teachers Association. Single-day admission costs $10 at the gate (cash only) and it’s a rain-or-shine event. Children age 12 or younger are admitted free when accompanied by an adult. 

Next year’s official Hudson Valley Garlic Festival poster will be decided based on festival-goers’ votes: artists submit designs in advance, and the two finalists will be displayed at the festival’s information tent. The artist receiving the largest number of votes will receive $450 for their winning design, which is used for T-shirts and all garlic festival promotions in 2020.

 Hudson Valley Garlic Festival, Saturday, Sept. 29, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 30 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., $10 at gate, free for kids under age 12 with adult, Cantine Field (Cantine Veterans Memorial Complex), Washington Ave. Extension, Saugerties; (845) 246-3090, www.hvgf.org. Pets aren’t allowed to attend the festival. Visit the website for parking details.

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