It was sometime back in 2005, when garlic grower, Warren Ham and myself had a chat about his concern for the state of the garlic growing industry in Ontario. As a Kiwanis Club member, I was always looking for great projects for the Club. Warren mentioned that there was a Kiwanis Club in upstate New York that had a wonderful Garlic Festival each year. As he was already attending that event, he suggested that I drop down and see how it was done. Just like the infamous Ben and Jerry ice cream team, we realized it was a sweet deal.
That very spring we sat down to work out the logistics and, with the enthusiastic support of the Stratford Kiwanis Club and the Garlic Growers Association of Ontario, the Stratford Garlic Festival came to fruition in 2007. The Kiwanians immediately formed a committee comprised of hardworking and innovative people, dedicated to the success of the festival.
When the big day finally arrived, we couldn’t have imagined how cold and wet a September day could actually be, but the crowds came anyway. Almost 2000 brave souls came out to enjoy the event. We knew that with that kind of a turnout, we had to offer up another festival the next year and although we figured we would not have bad weather two years in a row, we were wrong because the weather the following year was even worse. The funny thing was, our gate tally proved that even more people came to Stratford to buy garlic, eat garlic fudge and enjoy the extraordinary demonstrations and presentations. We forged on.
In the third year the weather improved and, once again, so did the crowds. We were now over 4000 patrons and the vendors were starting to call us to reserve a place to display their wares. We were excited to see that the experiment was paying off and people were looking to purchase Ontario Garlic, not just at the festival but in our supermarkets as well. Clearly, it pays to promote that which is good!
The Stratford Garlic Festival committee has been hard at work with the planning for the 2013 festival, which has grown to a two-day event! We anticipate that it will be the best garlic festival ever with 100+ vendors expected. We have lined up more exciting and interesting presentations, demonstrations and entertainment, we will offer more garlic dinners, we now have our own wine label and, as always, there will be plenty of the in-demand garlic fudge!
Our team of Stratford’s finest volunteers will be looking for you on Saturday, September 7th and Sunday, September 8th. They’ll be wearing Stratford Garlic Festival T-shirts and when you meet up with one, please share your story about how you came upon our festival. One of the best stories I have heard yet was in our first year when a young man had been sitting in his hotel room in Moscow, reading the Globe and Mail on the internet. He noticed a small article about our event and emailed the information to his garlic loving parents who lived near Wallaceburg. His parents came to the festival and were delighted with the food, the demonstrations, the atmosphere and the warm welcome they received.
We are ready to welcome you too because the only thing better than the garlic itself is sharing it with you!
Stratford Garlic Festival Chair 2007-2012
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