CUBA — The odor of garlic hung in the air near Empire City Farms in Cuba Saturday at the 15th annual Cuba Garlic Festival.

The pungent little vegetable has brought thousands of visitors to the village of Cuba over the years, thanks to Cuba natives Jim and Laurie Buzzard, who grew and sold garlic on a plot of land at the festival site at 105 South St.

After visiting similar festivals around the country, the couple brought the idea of a garlic festival to the Cuba Chamber of Commerce, and it continues to grow every year.

“It’s going wonderful,” said Michele Conklin, Cuba Chamber of Commerce board member. “The weather is so favorable and we have a great number of vendors and with the music going on. Tomorrow we have Bwana Jim here all day. Two docents from the Susan B. Anthony Museum in Rochester will be here performing vignettes.”

Hundreds of people were milling around the grounds watching the entertainment and looking over the products and services of 140 vendors, who were kept busy handing out samples, answering questions and ringing up sales.

There were vendor’s booths full of jewelry and clothing, home furnishings and quilted items.

And, of course, there was lots of garlic in all varieties and in all kinds of products, from fudge to hot sauce to honey to cheese to plain old garlic bulbs — blackened, pickled or seasoned.

But no matter how it’s cooked, served or presented, it all starts with the garlic bulb, and the Great Garlic Bulb Contest is a perennial “favorite among all the garlic growers,” according to Lee James, festival chairperson.

JT’s Garlic Farm was just one vendor who had a crowd in front of its tent Saturday morning.

Dawn Ernst and Bruce Bosworth, both of Turtlepoint, Pa., were looking over his garlic selection as they are thinking of starting a garlic farm.

“We’ve never been here and we wanted to see it,” Ernst said, clutching a tote carrying the two bags of different varieties of garlic she had just bought, among other items. “We’re just wandering around and asking questions.”

Festival goers who weren’t wandering around were filling the tents featuring the musical entertainment and cooking demonstrations.

It was standing room only as about 100 people watched chef Deb Burch and the Alfred State culinary students make grilled chicken with garlic butter sauce. While samples were being handed out to the eager crowd, the budding chefs were preparing to make black garlic chocolate chip cookies.

OTHER ACTIVITIES at the festival over the weekend include barn tours and historic demonstrations like blacksmithing. Crafters and artisans were also kept busy as festival goers kept a watch for what might catch their eye.

Garlic workshops and educational talks by Bob Dunkel of the Garlic Seed Foundation are held in the depot building.

Bwana Jim’s Wildlife Show from Shinglehouse, Pa. will be at the festival all day today. According to his website, it is an “enthusiastic, educational and witty show.” He specializes in reptiles such as snakes, alligators and turtles, as well as wallabies and exotic birds.

This year, a 4½-foot carved wooden black bear crafted by Glenn Roloson and valued at $1,000 is being raffled off, with the drawing held today at about 5 p.m. The winner does not have to be present to win. You’ll find the bear near the entrance area.

The youngsters can be kept busy in a 10,000 sq. ft. area that includes a petting zoo and kids corral. Horse and pony rides were available for $5 for one time around the fenced-in yard. Olivia North, 11, of Portville, was taking the opportunity to ride Saturday, saying she was experienced from riding on her friend Shayla’s horse.

Madison Mills, 1, of Limestone, had made it to the children’s area, petting a goat while being held up by her grandfather, Cary Mills, also of Limestone. Children were able to pet goats, ponies and rabbits.

Mr. Scribbles!, a.k.a. Michael Sparling of Perry, was kept busy turning children and adult’s scribbles into take-home art.

“They’re coming right over. We’re having a great time,” Sparling said. “Two kids were here who were here last year and their mother said they talked all the way out that they wanted to go here (to my tent) first.”

Kristen Fish of Wheatfield was there with her husband Jason, and Lucas, 8, and Ryan and Bradley, 5. While the boys hadn’t decided what else they liked yet, beside Mr. Scribbles!, their mother could, saying with a smile that she liked the wine tasting best.

Another activity for children was at the Cuba Public Library tent, where kids could get a free book, from baby’s hardcovers to paperbacks for young adults. If you wrote your favorite author or book title on a poster, you could spin a wheel to win a variety of prizes.

The festival continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with free parking. Tickets at the gate are $7 per person and children under 10 are free.

Activities include, but are not limited to:

  • 11 a.m., NYSP K9 unit demonstration
  • 11:30 a.m., Sound Foundation performs
  • Noon, Garlic Seed Foundation lecture with Bob Dunkel
  • 12:30 p.m., Bwana Jim’s Wildlife Show
  • 1:30 p.m., Cooking demo with Chef Aaron and Mary Hess of Fusion on Main; Freddy & the Jets perform; garlic braiding demo with Michelle Scutt; history presentation “Susan B. Inspires Me” from the Susan B. Anthony Museum in Rochester.
  • 3 p.m., Amateur wine-making contest winners announced; Birds of Western New York with Tim Baird.
  • 3:30 p.m., Wine & cheese tasting and Jack Ellis & Keepin’ It Country performs.
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