Portal to the Future: Garlic and Arts Festival to Showcase What the Future Can, and Should, Look Like

The Recorder, September 9, 2016, by Domenic Poli

You may have gotten food and entertainment at the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts Festival in years past. But how about a glimpse into what might be in store for the planet?

The 18th installation of the festival is billed as having a “Portal to the Future,” an area highlighting ways that “art, food, small-scale farming, renewable energy, care for the land and hand skills all contribute to community-building and local resilience.” There will also be an opportunity, made possible through a collaboration with Mass Drive Clean and Plug In America, to test drive an electric vehicle.

Cathy Stanton, with North Quabbin Energy, said the objective of the “Portal to the Future” is to showcase what “the future can and should look like if it was more locally sourced.” The Portal to the Future is no different than any other aspect of the festival, which she said enjoys a funky, folksy reputation.

The festival lasts from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (rain or shine) at 60 Chestnut Hill Road on Sept. 24 and 25. Tickets are $5 per day for adults and children under 12 are free. Weekend passes are $8.

There will be entertainment and children’s activities, as well as roughly 20 food vendors, with many selling garlic-themed food. There will also be dozens of artists with their work for sale.

Lydia Grey, a festival founder and a clay artist who still serves on the festival’s committee, said locals come back year after year because they have such a great time.

“It’s hard to put it into words, but there is something about the festival,” she said. “It’s a very joyful festival, where people can feel comfortable and have fun and also learn a lot about people who are farming and working with their hands in the region.”

Grey said she marvels at the wide variety of vendors and entertainment at the festival each year. There are expected to be more than 200 volunteers over the weekend.

Deborah Habib, who sits on the festival committee, said the idea for the annual event arose from a conversation between her husband, Ricky Baruc, and friend Jim Fountain in 1998. Habib said Baruc mentioned there were not many places to sell the garlic he grew on his farm and Fountain, a woodworker, said the same was true for art. Habib said the area had many wonderful artists and craftsmen but they all had to move to Boston to get more exposure for their careers.

“The vision was to create a place for artists and farmers and foodmakers and craftspeople, to unite those people,” Habib said. “The thing I think is really special is … it’s really a very amazing model of what people can do when they have a vision.”

She said the festival averages around 10,000 people per weekend.

The first festival was held in 1999 at the Seeds of Solidarity Farm, which proved too small. Orange resident Dorothy Forster enjoyed the festival and offered to hold future ones on her property, which once held a dairy farm her father ran from 1926 to 1941.

“(Garlic and Arts) was so much fun and I could already see that they needed more space,” she said.

Her property spans 128 acres and all but 10 of them are under a conservation easement.

“What’s good about having the Garlic and Arts Festival is it keeps my field from turning into trees,” Forster said with a laugh. “It’s good to have it and share it.

“My father would never have dreamed about what goes on in his fields.”

Forster said she enjoys attending the festival and taking photographs of the crowds and watching the children have fun. She the festival committee pays rent to use the property but declined to reveal how much.

There will be on-site parking for accessible tags and carpools of three or more and a free nearby shuttle lot for all others. No pets allowed, except for service dogs.