The Third Street Park smelled strongly of garlic over the Labor Day weekend.
The fifth-annual Bloomington GarlicFest & Community Art Fair provided a sensory celebration of local food and art at Third Street Park, just two blocks away from the Fourth Street Festival of the Arts and Crafts.
The all-ages GarlicFest was free and began at 10 a.m. Sept. 3 and 4, coinciding with the Fourth Street Festival.
The GarlicFest was split into multiple sections for art in booths, a food area with picnic tables, a stage for local bands and a kidzone with animals and arts and crafts. It featured food, live music, local artists and healthy-eating education for kids and adults. GarlicFest began five years ago and stemmed off of the Fourth Street Festival as a space for more local art, musicians and food.
Niki Irvine, assistant director of GarlicFest, said they had the idea a couple of years earlier for garlic to be the theme. She said it’s a good ingredient for a lot of foods and beneficial in ways many people don’t know about.
Irvine said a large part of the GarlicFest is educating attendees on reading health labels and being exposed to local farmers’ foods in the community.
“We try to really read labels of the food we bring in,” Irvine said. “And then teach kids to read the labels.”
The kidzone included live snakes, health education activities with painting and a space for kids to learn to play the hurdy gurdy, a stringed instrument that makes sound through a crank-turned wheel.
She said they emphasized supporting local farmers and buying local products, such as the bratwurst, which came from an Indiana farm. The sauerkraut, Irvine said, was naturally made in small batches and slowly fermented to maintain all its good bacterial properties.
Hedges said garlic is a healthful supplement for heart and blood pressure. GarlicFest was a great way to educate people on the local food community to create more healthful options, she said.
“What we’re trying to do is teach the kids to eat more healthful foods,” Hedges said. “And reduce diabetes and obesity by eating local and nutritional stuff.”
Local farmers who typically sell their crops at farmers’ markets around the Bloomington area also came to GarlicFest to sell their garlic crops each year.
Michael Hicks, a founding member of Living Roots Ecovillage, said he’s been coming to GarlicFest with products from his vegetable garden since it began five years ago.
“We bring more variety of garlic.” Hicks said. “We have a big vegetable garden. We plant 18,000 bulbs a year.”
He said most garlic in grocery stores is now imported from China, but garlic is actually easy to grow in Indiana. He said a lot of people don’t know about garlic’s culinary and medicinal uses.
“I think they chose garlic as a theme for this festival because it’s great.” Hicks said. “It’s an educational thing about how to grow garlic, eat it and enjoy it.”