AVONDALE, N.S. — The mastermind behind the widely popular Avondale Garlic Fest and juried art show has a few plans up her sleeve to make 2019’s event even better.
Kathy Monroe, who launched the festival six years ago, said this year’s event at the Avondale Sky Winery was the best one yet, with upwards of 5,800 people attending and 80-plus vendors and exhibitors.
“It’s the biggest day for the winery; it’s the biggest fair we’ve ever had out there... From what I can tell, I don’t think anybody went home unhappy,” said Monroe.
The picturesque area was overrun with vehicles Sept. 15 as people stopped by the venue to pick up fresh garlic, sample products, and to take in some of the workshops and lectures. There was also live entertainment throughout the day.
“It’s uncommon to get this kind of foot traffic in a seven-hour day,” said Monroe.
The festival is held annually on the third Saturday of September.
Tina Morgan, of Gore-Jus Farms, has been an exhibitor at the festival for the past three years. She says she appreciates being able to sell her wares at the event.
“We have liked coming just because it’s local. The people are extremely friendly. It’s just been a fantastic market for networking,” said Morgan. “Sales are always fantastic. It’s just a really wonderful day with lots of activities going on.”
Gore-Jus Farms has been operating for 17 summers and sells garlic, jellies, plus free-range chickens and turkeys.
As a steady stream of customers visited her tent Sept. 15, she said it’s clear people like to purchase local when it’s available.
“I think people want a local product,” said Morgan. “When you go to the grocery store, a lot of times the garlic that’s available is all product of China. I think that people get really excited about a local product and they come together to support the local farmers.”
Stephanie Jones, of Royal Jelly Gardens in East Hants, and her business partner Kim Fader have been vendors at the fair for about five years. Jones said their hot pepper jelly continually wins awards, and has won several times for the best jellies category at the Avondale event.
“It’s amazing. Tons of people. I just love it. Every year it gets bigger and bigger,” said Jones of the festival.
As the Avondale Garlic Fest continues to grow, Monroe said they are looking for ways to improve their offerings. One such area is with the garlic ice cream.
“We get yelled at every year because we only have ice cream until about noon. We’re developing a way to have more next year. It’s our goal to have ice cream until at least mid-afternoon next year,” said Monroe.
The local resident and West Hants councillor said they held a garlic eating contest this year and due to its success, will be building upon it for the future.
“If you didn’t see the garlic eating contest... you need to be out here for that next year,” said Monroe.
“That was a riot. We had six people this year who stood there like troopers who chowed down garlic, one clove at a time.”
The winner finished eating 10 cloves in one minute and 32 seconds. A youth was the runner up. The tent where the contest was held was packed with spectators. Monroe said due to the interest, they may consider having an adult and a youth category in 2019.
As for why the festival continues to grow, Monroe thinks it’s a combination of factors.
“First, from the public, there’s support because I think there’s a love of garlic and a desire to get at it. I think there's a lot of people who come for the lectures and the contests. I get really good support from the artists because this particular event has always drawn large crowds — more than we expected every year. The artists really like it,” said Monroe.
“It comes in the fall when it’s a little cooler. Don’t have any bugs; don’t usually have rain or weather issues... All of those things just come together to make it work.”
Next year’s festival will be held on Sept. 21, 2019.