Garlic Festival, 2003
Saturday, September 27 2003
Gretchen and I drove today to the Garlic Festival in Saugerties (be sure to follow that link). It's a much bigger event than either of us imagined, and the organizers obviously overlooked some essential logistical planning, because we were stuck for over an hour in traffic starting at the intersection of 212 and 32 and crawling at a pedestrian's pace (or less) all the way to Cantine Field. We were hungry when we started out and famished by the time we could smell the garlic in the distance, so I devoured a bag full of sugar candies Gretchen found in the glove compartment. Meanwhile Gretchen took the opportunity to straighten up the entire inside of the car. At one point I complained that being stuck in traffic was "worse than being in Iraq" and Gretchen got mad at me because "that's not funny." This reminded me that the other day I'd seen road maps of Iraq for sale in Staples. I feel sorry for any of the poor suckers compelled to buy one of those.
The Garlic Festival was a vast sea of humanity. It provided a pretty good survey of what constitutes an Average American. Few of the individuals were photogenic, and a great many of them were various stages of overweight. The blooming onions certainly weren't helping.
The blooming onions were the most flamboyant dishes being sold at any of the dozens of food stands. Each consisted of a whole onion that had been radially-sliced by a special blooming machine, then breaded and deep fried in oil to make something that resembled a Kentucky fried flower. People were walking around with them everywhere, and they must have been succesfully advertising themselves, since they looked delicious. The profit margin on the things must have been huge, because they were being sold for $6 each. Gretchen got her fix when a surprisingly photogenic young woman offered her a piece of her blooming onion, which, like Iraq, had proven to be too vast of a commitment. Other people were having the same problem festival-wide, and everywhere trashcans were full of the partially-devoured corpses of blooming onions.
We mostly started out by eating free samples, but we were far too hungry to be satisfied that way. So we ordered samosas from an Indian food stand, and I ordered shrimp tacos from another stand and then some sort of mediocre mushroom thing from another. None of this food was especially garlicy, though I'm sure there was garlic in all of it. After all, what savory food can't be improved by the addition garlic? Indeed, there was an icecream stand selling garlic-flavored icecream to a long line of customers. I wanted no part of that madness.
In addition to the stands selling easily-eaten foods, there were other stands selling sauces, jars of pickled goods, and various items suitable for the pantry. There was also a vast swath of stands selling folksy craft items, most of it belonging to the frightful phylum. Many of these stands were trying to trade on dubious associations with the garlic plant, but I can't understand why anyone would buy a crude folk-art painting of garlic clove, particularly on a piece of furniture.
In case you weren't sufficiently entertained by the occasional glimpse of a redneck relaxing on a haybail, the Garlic Festival featured at least two separate stages for the performance of live music.
During the time we were there, one band played zydeco-influenced bar rock while another entertained from a separate stage with an endless series of monotonous polka standards. Nobody in any of the audiences was dancing because nobody was drunk. In all of the Garlic Festival's many food stands, there wasn't a single beer available, garlic-flavored or otherwise.
It didn't take long before I'd had my fill of the Garlic Festival. By now the sun had come out and the day had turned unexpectedly hot, made all the worse by the jalapeño and garlic dip I'd just been sampling. Eventually I rested in the shade of a vendor's tent while Gretchen continued her tour of the festival solo.
At a certain point my thirst overcame me and I ventured forth from the shade to obtain another of the Garlic Festival's self-advertising staples, a massive $5 cup of lemonade. By the time I found Gretchen again, I saw she'd bought one of these too.
We had only moderate trouble leaving the Garlic Festival, only encountering traffic as we approached route 32 via Peoples Road. At that intersection there was evidence of last-minute logistics at work: a policeman directing traffic. Interestingly, no one had thought to set up a stand selling breath mints along the road from Cantine Field.
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