Bennington becomes Garlic Town, USA this weekend

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Vermont Business Magazine On Saturday, September 5th Bennington will become “Garlic Town, USA” for one day in celebration of garlic, agriculture and community. The actual event takes place from 10am-5pm throughout Bennington’s downtown district. Earlier this summer, when Vermont Governor Scott restricted festivals due to the COVID Pandemic, the Southern Vermont Chamber of Commerce, producers of the renowned “Garlic Fest” pivoted to create something more amenable to safety and the governor’s restrictions. Garlic Town, USA was born.

In coordination with the Town of Bennington and the Better Bennington Corporation, Southwestern Vermont Chamber’s Garlic Town, USA celebrates farmers, agriculture, and the spirit of Garlic Fest.  On the Saturday of Labor Day Weekend, Bennington’s downtown will feature pockets of original Garlic Fest vendors, or what the committee is calling “Cloves.” Each Clove spot will have a handful of garlic and produce vendors for people to visit. 

“So far, the response has been tremendous,” says Matt Harrington, executive director of the Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce which produces the festival.  “We didn’t know what to expect, but ticket registrations are steady and strong, our River Derby has over 100 people sign up.  Additionally we have just about 20 vendors, not including Bennington’s farmers market, signed up.  Restaurants are participating in Garlic Town Restaurant week all this week and store fronts are ready with sidewalk sales.”

Free tickets were available starting August 1 and on Tuesday the chamber announced that all available tickets were registered and sold out. 

Harrington adds, “We needed a mechanism to help us see the crowd sizes, direct them to certain locations at certain times all in an effort to create a safe event in the era of COVID.  The ticket system at least lets us know who is coming and if we need, to get in touch with them.”  Downtown will not be closed to only ticket holders, however the presenting organizations strongly urge residents and travelers to be sensitive around the event and social distancing.

Clove locations include:

  • Clove A (Downtown Visitor’s Center at 215 South Street and the “Four Corners” of South, North and Main Street) which will feature vendors Marjean Organic Garlic, Mettowee Valley Maple, New England Twists and Willowtree Organic Farm.

  • Clove B (“4 Corners” of South, North and Main Street starting at the iconic clock to Silver Street) which will feature Downtown Sidewalk Sales, Green Mountain Concessions, Garlic Town Restaurant Specials, the Alliance for Community Transformation (ACT), the popcorn truck and more.

  • Clove C (Silver Street to Ramunto’s Pizza at 519 Main Street) will feature Ramunto’s Ramfest with live acts, games, bbq and wood fired pizza, as well as Argusville Farms, Highland Ledge Farm, Lindon Garlic Farm, Norshaft Lions, Northeast Corner Herb Farm.

  • Clove D (Depot Street Lot including the former Tuttle’s Lot to The Dutchman’s Tavern at 135 Depot Street) will feature Buried Treasure Organic Farm, Gra Den Talun Farm, Hawks Meadow Farm, Highland Farm, Quill Hill Farm, Rolling Rock Farm, Scarp Farm, and music at The Dutchman’s Tavern.

  • Clove E (River Street and Depot Street) will feature the Bennington Farmers’ Market with over 20 other vendors including Ann Brittin Design, Assembly Coffee Roasters, Battenkill Brittle, Beechwood Brambles, Earth SKYCHURP Time, Eclatant, EMVEO jewelry, Fahey Family Honey Farm, Hilltop Farm, Hoppy Valley Organics, Mighty Food Farm, Nana Kay’s Bakery, paper cake scissors, Running Brook Sugar Shack, Ruocco Family Farm, Saunders Family Farm, Small Potatoes Farm, The Bohemian, True Love Farm, Vermont Arts Guild, and Wildstone Farm.

  • Clove F (Bennington Museum) will be a location for parking and entrance into downtown.

  • Clove G (Former Middle School) will also be a location for parking and entrance into downtown.

Descriptions of vendor products as well as their website and/or Facebook page are available at www.GarlicTownUSA.com

Additionally, A&K Agriservices has volunteered to provide hay wagon transportation to all patrons throughout the day for free.  The Hay Wagon Transport will be making stops as each Clove.

The small shops of Bennington’s downtown will also be doing Sidewalk Sales on that Saturday.  Some of those merchants include The Village Chocolate Shoppe at 471 Main Street who will be offering caramel apples, garlic fudge, garlic caramel corn, regular caramel corn, popcorn and garlic gelato!  In conjunction with the Garlic Restaurant Week they will also have garlic gelato available the entire week. Knapps  of 417 Main Street will be offering a 50% Off Select Outdoor Toys’ sale.

couch + cork at 113 South Street is offering a $30 “STAY IN. DRINK WINE.” Charcuterie Boards. They are American made from sustainable bamboo. 

The Beyond Gallery & Gift Shop at 437 Main Street is offering a 15% Off Storewide Sale. In addition to the sale, The Beyond Gallery is holding the official coloring contest of Garlic Town, USA: a coloring table will be set up on the sidewalk and prizes will be awarded to the best in each age group (5 and younger, 6-12, 13-18). Entries can be colored in person or ahead of time. One entry per child. Must be dropped off at the Beyond Gallery by 5pm on Sept. 5th. Families can download the coloring sheet at www.GarlicTownUSA.com.

Vine & Branches Gallery at 441 Main Street will be offering a Clearance table, with some items 50-60% off and The Gift Garden at 431 Main Street will be offering store wide 50% off sale.

Bennington Sports and Graphic at 451 Main Street will be selling the official Garlic Town, USA t-shirt on Saturday.  Each shirt is $15 with a portion of the proceeds going to the local chamber of commerce as a fundraiser.  Get your t-shirt day of while supplies last!

Restaurants are also participating in a special Garlic Town Restaurant Week.  Madison Brewing Company at 428 Main Street has been serving all week long New England Clam Strip with Lemon Garlic Aioli, a Cubano with Lemon Garlic Aioli, Prime Cut Cowboy Rib Eye Steak with Garlic Herb Butter, Garlic Parmesan Burger and drink specials including Garlic Mojito, Raspberry Garlic Margarita, Dragon Slayer, & Mega Bloody Mary.

The Miller’s Toll at 716 Main Street will have Grilled Cajun Steak Skewers with marinated cajun steak, garlic cream sauce, Stuffed Creamy Garlic Parmesan Baby Bella Mushrooms and more!

At noon on Saturday, Garlic Town officials will release over 120 toy garlic bulbs into the Walloomsac River for the first ever Garlic Bulb River Derby.  Those that registered will get a number which will be put on one of the garlic bulbs.  All the garlic bulbs will be placed in the Walloomsac River at noon and race to the finish at The Bank of Bennington.  There, the first bulb to pass the finish line with the winning number will receive a gift basket of downtown merchant goodies and gift certificates.  Registration is now full. Participants are encouraged to show up at The Bank of Bennington’s parking lot at noon as the officials get started.

As far as health and safety, the Garlic Town, USA committee has been working with officials at the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and the town in preparation for this event. Harrington adds, “Each clove is designed to handle the regulated amount of people outside at one time per the State’s restrictions.  Additionally, each Clove will have its own sanitizing stations and volunteers will be walking around to sanitize and monitor each clove.  At every step of this new event, COVID was top of mind.  The committee leaders around the table were extremely sensitive about how to do this fun event while the COVID pandemic still exists.”

Included on the website are these guidelines:

  • Each Clove throughout downtown has a max ticket capacity of 150 people in accordance with the current State of Vermont order.  Ticket holders do not need to stay in one Clove the whole time, but we do encourage ticket holders to start at their designated Clove (which is on the ticket) to provide proper social distancing.  We are encouraging all patrons to adhere to a 15 minute maximum staying time at each clove as was recommended by our health partners.

  • Throughout downtown and the event, we will have volunteers stationed with PPE handout, sanitizer and other information for the public and patrons.

  • Bathrooms are located on the map – please respect and sanitize the bathroom after use.

  • If you feel sick or know that you’ve been in contact with someone with COVID, please for the safety of others stay home (and cook up some garlic!).

  • Effective Friday, August 1, 2020, Governor Scott of Vermont required all Vermonters (and travelers) to wear masks or cloth facial coverings while in public.

  • Please monitor and respect social distancing and crowding.

  • Use the garlic to ward off any people who might get closer than 6 feet to you (or Vampires).”

In an email sent out to years of Garlic Festival goers, Harrington also had this caution:

“Garlic Festival at Camelot Village, which would have taken place this year on Saturday September 5 and Sunday September 6, is still canceled in accordance with the Vermont Governor’s mandate.  Please do not show up next weekend (but plan on 2021!). In lieu of Garlic Fest, the chamber has worked with downtown partners to create a local “Garlic Town, USA.”  The focus is to help those garlic growers that would not be able to sell at a canceled Garlic Fest, but still have plenty of produce. This event is free and targeted primarily at locals.  That being said, we do welcome guests to join us.  We strongly recommend getting a free ticket for the event.  Tickets are first come first serve.  Parking is on your own, but we have identified parking lots throughout downtown. Once tickets are sold out, please consider not coming to the downtown event.  Because of COVID, we are trying to manage crowd size and distancing.  We appreciate your consideration.”  

Added in that email and throughout the marketing and website of Garlic Town USA, the committee has put a strong emphasis on if patrons do get a ticket and they are from outside of Vermont, to please follow the current travel restrictions. Patrons from outside of Vermont can learn more about their specific travel situation here: https://accd.vermont.gov/covid-19/restart/cross-state-travel#map

“In an effort to be proactive and safe, we are just trying to over communicate to as many participants and stakeholders as possible,” Adds Harrington.  

A map of all the cloves and the various events throughout downtown is available at www.GarlicTownUSA.com as well as in the Thursday edition of The Bennington Banner. 

“It’s only in Garlic Festival tradition that we see a community like Bennington coming together to help and celebrate.  Whether its a coloring contest, t-shirts, food specials, sidewalk sales, musical acts or just to volunteer – we appreciate again and again the hospitality and hard work ethic of Bennington.” Harrington summarizes.

Current sponsors for this event include: The Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce, Better Bennington Corporation, Town of Bennington, Presenting Sponsor West Oil, Shires Young Professionals, Bennington Sports and Graphic, The Bank of Bennington, Ramuntos Pizza, The Inn at Manchester, People’s Bank, Uncle Bob’s Septic Service and The Bennington Banner.

Official Garlic Town, USA Map

(Bennington, VT) — For more information on the event, visit: www.GarlicTownUSA.com 

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