The smell of garlic and corn wafted through the Waldron Hill Buskirk Park as people of Bloomington gathered for the Bloomington GarlicFest.
The first GarlicFest happened in 2012, and it came with four inches of rain, said director David Cox. The next came with thunderstorm predictions and weather-skeptics that stayed home.
The sixth festival, that began on Sept. 1, however, came with clear blue skies and some humidity at first — later joined by rain — and plenty of attendees.
“Garlic is good for you, and I think that it’s nice that they’re having the festival,” Teresa Campbell, Bloomington resident, said. “They’ve got different things to use with garlic, and it’s fresh garlic.”
The festival opened at 11 a.m., with live music beginning at noon. Gordon Bonham Blues Band, complete with harmonicas, guitars and drums, kicked off the music. They played on the stage at the Third Street Park as people sat on benches, lawn chairs and the grass to listen. Young kids ran through the grass to the music, arms outstretched, as the sounds of the harmonica reverberated through the area.
Throughout the park, white tents sat clustered, staking ground for booths for things such as local artists, food, a cooking contest and more.
“We’re offering a $500 first prize for the food contest,” Steve Hedges, an organizer of the event, said. “It’s based on appearance, taste, use of garlic, quality of ingredients and how local it is. We’re trying to local-source stuff.”
The recipes for the cooking contest were submitted online weeks in advance, allowing the organizers to pick the eight entrants they wanted to have in the contest.
In addition to the cooking contest for locals, there were also local artists in the tents. These featured caricature drawings, jewelry, paintings, ceramics, tie dye clothes and more.
“I knew it was a pretty good festival to be at,” Haley Brown, an artist at the event and 2012 IU alumna said. “Plus Fourth Street is happening, so it gets the traffic from Fourth Street. It’s a really big weekend for Bloomington”
While the event has some limits on space, Hedges said they don’t critique or pick and choose which artists are able to have a spot in the fest — it’s done on a first-come first-serve basis, with preference to people who are local.
“We reach out and they contact us,” Hedges said about the musicians chosen to play at the fest. “We also have the art fair and they apply online, but there’s no judging. If they want to be here, then all they have to pay is the entry fee.
The inspiration from the festival comes from all sorts of things, but Cox said as a kid he spent time living in Beirut, Lebanon, and everything there was covered in garlic.
"I've been a lover of garlic for a long time," Cox said. "At one point there were a couple people talking about doing it, and they never did anything, and I was talking to Steve about it, and this was like, maybe 10 years ago."
Cox said one day he got a phone call from Hedges informing him that he was the director of GarlicFest.
The planning for GarlicFest takes place around 14 months in advance. Before this years festival began, the 2019 festival was already in the works.
“We’ve got plans for next year already,” Cox said. “It takes an immense amount of time."
Bloomington GarlicFest will run though Sunday Sept. 2, with live music playing until 8 p.m.
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