In 1998, farmer Ricky Baruc was cleaning garlic under an oak tree at Seeds of Solidarity Farm in Orange lamenting the lack of retail venues for this beautiful crop in our immediate region. Woodworker and friend Jim Fountain stopped by to say hello, and the conversation expanded to include the many wonderful artists in the North Quabbin region who needed to leave the area for galleries and shows elsewhere. The two came up with the idea for a Garlic and Arts Festival. The following week, Ricky and wife Deb Habib, Jim and wife Alyssa Fountain, and another neighbor and artist, Lydia Grey, sat down to a potluck dinner and began scheming. They each put 20 bucks in the middle of the table and said “lets do it.”
The first North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival was held in 1999 at Seeds of Solidarity Farm. The week before the first festival, a hurricane came through and the neighbors showed up with tractors, gravel, whatever was necessary to ready the field and prepare for whatever crowds might show up. And they did, almost 1,000 strong – many shuttled in by a rented school bus from a local school parking lot, others by foot from nearby fields on Chestnut Hill Road which had been offered by neighbors for parking. In 2000, we moved the festival down the road to historic and more spacious Forster’s Farm, where it continues to be held.
Dory Forster, owner of Forster’s Farm, tells the story of her family’s dairy farm and how she came to host the Festival for all of these years. What a wonderful relationship!
The festival has become a hugely popular, family friendly event that embodies the spirit of community building, environmental sustainability and artistic vitality. It is still organized by neighbors, with ample volunteerism and ingenuity.
This is an all-volunteer festival. This helps to keep the price of admission low and the cost of a booth the lowest in the region for vendors and exhibitors. Besides being rewarded by participating in the festival, volunteers receive a T-shirt, always beautifully designed and crafted. MaryEllen Kennedy runs the Information and Merchandise tent and shares the “merch” from past events in this video.
For the 20th Anniversary of the Festival, in 2018, Lou Leelyn, one of the Organizers who is good with a needle sewed a beautiful quilt from the T-shirts from all of the former festivals. So much love!
Everyone involved – organizers, exhibitors, volunteers, performers, attendees, a supportive community – makes the festival what it is and we are grateful and look forward to celebrating the richness of our communities for many years to come.