Why Garlic? Bethlehem Festival Honors Vegetable


Courtesy of the Connecticut Garlic Festival

The Connecticut Garlic Festival will return to the Bethlehem Fairgrounds on Oct. 9-10.

Ellie Mansfield, Reporter

BETHLEHEM — It’s that time of year again: Kids are back in school, the leaves are starting to change colors, autumnal scented candles are put out, and the scent of garlic flows through the air.

What? Why garlic?

Every year in October, the Connecticut Garlic and Harvest Festival is held at the Bethlehem Fairgrounds. And as people come from far and wide for this festival, plenty of people can’t help but wonder why a fair whose main attraction is garlic even exists. 

Festival co-coordinator David Harkness explains why. 

“My partner, Al Avitabile, went to the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in Saugerties, N.Y. back in 2004,” Harkness said. “He came back so impressed with that event that he suggested we start a Garlic Festival here in Connecticut and asked me to become partners with him.” 

Harkness noted that garlic is an important food around the world.

“Garlic is a staple for many cultures in cooking and has many health benefits,” Harkness added. “There are many garlic festivals throughout the country — the largest in Gilroy, California. Al and I, the founders of the event, are still running it today. This will be our 16th year.”

Garlic can have some medicinal properties, and can fight against sickness, including the flu and the common cold. Many people, like the Egyptians, have been documented using garlic for medicinal properties for ages.

The festival also has a wide variety of foods they’re selling.

“What makes our event a bit different from most fairs is that we have some very unique food offerings,” Harkness states. “Whole roasted garlic cloves, zucchini garlic potato pancakes, roasted elephant garlic soup, and deep-fried brussels sprouts with garlic aioli are just some of the things you can find at our event,” says the events co-coordinator.

With outrageous foods that most have probably never heard of before, plenty of people have been drawn in by these dishes.

“All of our vendors either offer hand-made crafts, garlic, or food related merchandise and specialty foods that you can’t find in stores. The beauty of running a festival rather than a store is that we can bring together over 200 vendors that can offer so much more than what you can find in any store,” Harkness says. “The experience of walking around outside, smelling the roasted garlic, and sampling from the dozens of specialty food booths on the premises is enough to keep people coming back year after year.”

The fair is also a place students like.

“My family was going,” Nonnewaug sophomore Emma Yakavonis said. “I tagged along mostly because I had to but also I like garlic and it’s a festival. The food at the fair was very good, and they had a lot of cool vendors. The crochet vendor was the coolest, I got a little garlic plush.”

The Garlic Festival will be held Oct. 9-10 at the Bethlehem Fairgrounds, located at 304 Main Street North.