BENNINGTON — Organizers of Saturday's Garlic Town USA event are looking forward to a celebration of garlic, agriculture and community that takes into account the precautions necessary to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Organized after a statewide ban on festivals was issued by Gov. Phil Scott, Garlic Town will stand in for the annual Garlic and Herb Festival, which last year attracted more than 16,000 patrons and 200 garlic-themed vendors.
Matt Harrington, the executive director of the Southwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce, which produces the festival, said that the organizing committee has been working with officials at the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and the town on health and safety issues.
"At every step of this new event, COVID was top of mind. The committee leaders around the table were extremely sensitive about how to do this fun event while the COVID pandemic still exists."
The event takes place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. throughout the downtown district.
Garlic and produce vendors will be distributed among of a number of "cloves" set up throughout the downtown, Harrington said.
"Each clove is designed to handle the regulated amount of people outside at one time per the State's restrictions. Additionally, each clove will have its own sanitizing stations and volunteers will be walking around to sanitize and monitor each clove," he said.
To control the size of the gatherings at each of the cloves, organizers have been issuing free tickets, which were sold out as of Tuesday. "The ticket system at least lets us know who is coming and if we need, to get in touch with them," Harrington said.
The downtown will not be closed to only ticket holders, although the presenting organizations are strongly urging residents and travelers to be sensitive around the event and social distancing.
Each clove has a maximum ticket capacity of 150 people, in accordance with Scott's order. Ticket holders do not need to stay in one clove the whole time, but are encouraged to start at their designated clove to provide proper social distancing, and to stay no more than 15 minutes before moving to the next.
"So far, the response has been tremendous," Harrington said. "We didn't know what to expect, but ticket registrations are steady and strong, our River Derby has over 100 people sign up. Additionally we have just about 20 vendors, not including Bennington's farmers market, signed up. Restaurants are participating in Garlic Town Restaurant week all this week and store fronts are ready with sidewalk sales."
Clove locations include the Downtown Visitor's Center at 215 South St.; the Four Corners of Main, North and South streets;
Silver Street to Ramunto's Pizza at 519 Main St.; the Depot Street parking lot; and the intersection of River and Depot streets. Parking will be provided at the Bennington Museum at 75 Main St. and the former middle school on Main Street.
Descriptions of vendor products as well as their website and/or Facebook page are available at www.GarlicTownUSA.com
Additionally, A&K Agriservices has volunteered to provide hay wagon transportation to all patrons throughout the day for free. The Hay Wagon Transport will be making stops as each clove.
Garlic Town is organized in coordination with the Town of Bennington and the Better Bennington Corporation.