Stop and Smell the Garlic
2016 Cleveland Garlic Festival Celebrates All Things Garlic
By Lexi Hotchkiss
Grab your breath mints, because it's time to scare aware the vampires at the Cleveland Garlic Festival in Shaker Square Aug. 27-28. Noon-9pm on Sat. & Noon-6pm on Sun.
Before we start breaking out the Twilight jokes, let's get serious. The annual festival is one of the fastest-growing food fests in Northeast Ohio--and for very good reason.
Betcha didn't know that the Cleveland area has more than 300 varietals of garlic growing in its mineral-rich soil. And, it's some of the tastiest, too.
Plus, the stuff is practically magic in our book. After all, it's been known to reduce blood pressure, combat the common cold, improve cholesterol levels and may even help you to live longer.
Donita Anderson, Executive Director of the North Union Farmers' Market, knew all of this to be true. And her organization, a nonprofit that operates producer-only farmers markets in Northeast Ohio, was looking at some ways to creatively raise money to keep her farmers' vendor fees low.
"Half our farmers live below the poverty line," she said. "So we're always looking for ways keep our vendor fees low."
Anderson set off to Gilroy, California to check out its famous garlic festival. By adding some quirks and upgrades, the decision to host a garlic festival in Cleveland was a no-brainer.
"It was in Gilroy that I realized that by creating an event back home, we would not only be fundraising and creating a lively spot in the community, but we'd also be creating a cash crop for our farmers," she said. "And, after tasting the garlic in Gilroy--no offense to Gilroy--ours is better!"
The festival draws as many as 15,000 people--a number that increases every year.
"It's different. You can't find any other festival like this in the country. No one's doing what we're doing," Anderson said.
What's in store for 2016? For a full schedule of the event, see here.
According to Anderson, the garlic in CLE is some of the best.
"We have a fabulous glacial till, so lots of good minerals exist in the soil. That translates into good food. So, when you bite into our garlic, it bites back," she said.
Taste for yourself with the more than 35 on-site vendors who range from independent farmers to local restaurants. In no time, you'll be chowing down on the likes of garlic fries, garlic beer and even garlic ice cream (it's actually really tasty).
The 15 different garlic farmers--the true celebrities of the festival --will be on-hand to chat as you peruse their garlic offerings, which go beyond traditional cloves with value-added products like crushed garlic and pickled garlic.
Did we mention there'll also be craft beer and wine tastings on site, too? Because there will be, along with the Browns game playing on a big screen in the beer garden.
If you haven't eaten enough by that point, make sure to check out one of the Chef Demos.
"Thirteen different local chefs compete and judge on who can create the best dishes using garlic and pork, garlic and free-range chicken, garlic and beef and, of course, a garlic vegetarian dish."
Afterwards, the creative dishes, featuring all sorts of heirloom garlic, are shared with the audience for tasting.
Hands-on education is a focus of the Cleveland Garlic Festival. While kids can be occupied with a rock-climbing wall and strolling entertainers, they'll also get the unique opportunity to learn how garlic is grown, get the 411 on raising chickens, take cooking classes and even participate in a pedal tractor maze.
Take a selfie next to a larger-than-life-size clove of garlic. Shake hands with Garlic Man, the superhero. Or, learn how to plow a field with a simulator. Quirky is all the rage!
If you're feeling a little adventurous, sign up for the Garlic Eating Competition on Saturday, where contestants are challenged to see how many cloves of fresh garlic they can eat in one minute.
Bring your mouthwash, people.
Ladies, here's your chance to really make it in the world. Compete to become the next Miss Cleveland Garlic Festival--who will be chosen because of her love of fresh local garlic, sustainable farms and local food.
"We were very specific in that we wanted great local music; I think that's very important to this festival. It'll be indie music and something to please everyone," Anderson said.
To check out the list of live music schedule, click here.
The event, located in Shaker Square in the Shaker Heights neighborhood, costs $9 for adults, $5 for seniors (65+) and $5 for children 4 to 12 years old. Funds from the Cleveland Garlic Festival allow North Union Farmers' Market to operate markets weekly throughout the year in Greater Cleveland. For more information, visit www.clevelandgarlicfestival.org.
And if you can't make it to the fest... eat your garlic from home using these tasty garlic recipes.