Blending crafts and agriculture: Garlic and Arts Festival attracts thousands in 24th year

  • Orange resident Doug Feeney makes food for volunteers at the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

  • Doug Feeney built a brick oven to be used at the festival 15 years ago. This year, food made using the oven fed more than 360 volunteers at the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

  • Phyllis Labanowski shows off the many garlic types at the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

  • Ariana Cruickshank, 9, and Hunter Cruickshank, 5, enjoy a food tent at the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

  • Ricky Baruc​​​​​​​ gives a garlic planting lesson at the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

  • The Dave Bulley Band performs at the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

  • Emory Davis, 4, of Concord plays with clay at the children’s tent at the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

  • Doug Feeney built a brick oven to be used at the festival 15 years ago. This year, food made using the oven fed more than 360 volunteers at the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival. STAFF PHOTO/BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer
Published: 10/2/2022 8:50:46 PM

ORANGE — Twenty-four years ago, a group of friends had the idea to celebrate the garlic planting season, while also filling the need for a venue to sell both garlic and art projects. Since then, the resulting event, the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival, has grown, welcoming thousands of visitors this weekend.

“I’ve come every year since the first one in the rain and mud,” recounted Phyllis Labanowski, a volunteer at the Seeds of Solidarity tent.

The festival, held at a former dairy farm at 60 Chestnut Hill Road, is special because it is a model for trash-free festivals. According to Labanowski, all the waste from the event can be composted, ultimately creating soil for 20 to 25 local gardens.

“It’s a closed-loop cycle,” she said.

This weekend’s event included vendors from across New England such as Clearview Farm from Interlaken, New York. The business has been selling garlic wholesale for 30 years, and the Garlic and Arts Festival is the only festival it attends, according to owner Donna Levy.

Levy explained that while most garlic is hard-stem garlic, her products also include soft-stem garlic, making her produce stand out.

“It’s almost planting season,” Levy said, as she explained she is getting ready for the next season of garlic.

While garlic can be a great addition to many dishes, it is also used for medicinal purposes. The Greenfield-based People’s Medicine Project had a booth at the festival touting herbalism. Development Manager Jesse Muzzy said the organization provides free medical consultations and gives holistic medicine to food pantries across the area. By attending the Garlic and Arts Festival, Muzzy said the People’s Medicine Project hoped to raise money for its new workshops training herbalists who are people of color.

Ina Peebles was at the festival selling handmade jewelry from metal, clay and dichroic glass. She said the festival has “a sense of community.”

“I enjoy that it is not only a craft fair,” Peebles said, “but has an agricultural focus.”

Hannah Searles traveled from Springfield with her sister to attend the festival for the second time. Like Peebles, she said she enjoys the combination of garlic and art.

“I’m seeking creative things and good food today,” Searles said.

The spoken word stage has been a pillar of the festival for more than 12 years. Organizer Paul Richmond spoke to the diverse set of performances.

“When we celebrate art, we should celebrate words, too,” he said as the reason for adding the stage to the Garlic and Arts Festival.

Along with the spoken word stage came Shutesbury resident Dina Stander and her “Phone of the Wind.” Stander created a booth with a disconnected phone to allow people to have one-way conversations with their deceased loved ones. This phone booth was modeled after the “Wind Phone” in Otsuchi, Japan.

“This gives people a space to grieve and reflect on life, death and loss,” she explained. “There has been so much loss in recent years, this space is needed.”

The Garlic and Arts Festival has not taken place in its full capacity for the past two years due to the pandemic, making people all the more excited about the festivities.

“This festival is as good as it gets,” said Ricky Baruc, one of the festival’s founders.

Bella Levavi can be reached at 413-930-4579 or blevavi@recorder.com.


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