CUBA — From honey at the “Sticky Buzzard” to coffee at the Sons of AmVets, the 14th annual Cuba Garlic Festival presented many different ways to eat the bulb on Saturday.
Over 142 vendors took part in this year’s festivities and sold their wares to a crowd of thousands of hungry attendees.
One vendor, Gary Wren, comes back to Cuba every summer from his home in California. He operated the “Garlic Festival Foods” stand, a company he’s worked at for the past 10 years.
“I came (to the Garlic Festival) for the first time last year and had a ball,” said Wren. “These kinds of things are a treasure. I’ve traveled around a lot and their aren’t a lot of things like this that go on anymore.”
Meredith Doyle, of Sweet Meredith’s Fudge, has also worked the festival for the past two years with her mother, Connie Doyle. As a part of the Cuba Friends of Architecture, the fudge sales help support a historic gem of downtown Cuba, the Palmer Opera House.
“Every vendor has to have something with garlic in it,” Connie Doyle said. “So since we make fudge, ours is garlic fudge. Chocolate garlic fudge, of course.”
The Doyles brought a total of 162 pounds of fudge, not all of it garlic, to be sold on Saturday.
“People tell you (the festival) is about the garlic,” Meredith Doyle said. “Really it’s about the comradery.”
The idea for this festival started from Cuba natives Jim and Laurie Buzzard, who grew and sold garlic on a plot of land where the festival is held now. After visiting similar festivals around the country, the Buzzards presented the idea of the Garlic Festival to the Cuba Chamber of Commerce 15 years ago, and the rest is history.
Their son Adam Buzzard, the owner of The Sticky Buzzard, basically took over the family business “by chance.” The Sticky Buzzard and Cuba Garlic Company are both run under the same parent company Your Local Produce Connection, LLC.
“I really want to do niche products, craft products,” Adam Buzzard said. “We plan to do black garlic next year.”
In addition to the garlic patches, Adam Buzzard also keeps 30 beehives to make their popular garlic honey, a mixture of honey and their powdered garlic.
“We use it to cook ribs, chicken” he said. “I eat a tablespoon daily to help with allergies.”
This year’s Garlic King and Queen were Gary and Carol Shaffer. As part of their duties, they marched in a parade, posed for pictures and were generally welcoming of all festival attendees. The Shaffers have come to every festival since its inception.
“They come up with new stuff every year,” Gary Shaffer said. “It started with pretty much nothing and it’s getting bigger and bigger every year.”
“But they also fine tune it and find out what works,” added Carol Shaffer. “They’ve been able to make it better and better because of it.”
For John and Louise Haskins, this year’s festival is like coming home. Though they live in Mumford, their daughter lives in Cuba and owns the The Perfect Blend Coffeehouse & Eatery. They haven’t been to the festival in five years, but John helped build his daughter’s “mobile unit” the week prior, so he wanted to check out the festival.
“There’s a lot more vendors than the last time,” said John. “It’s nice to come back and see the people we know.”
Lee James, chair of the Cuba Garlic Festival and former president of the Cuba Chamber of Commerce — the group that annually organizes the event — added Saturday that the festival has grown “immensely” over the years.
“I think that we’ll just try to expand the farm market for next year,” James said. “The committee works on this year-round. It’s a team effort and, as you can see, the end result is great.”
The festival continues today from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on 105 South St. The activities for today include, but are not limited to:
• A wine and cheese tasting.
• Barn tours at $3 each.
• A petting zoo and pony rides.
• Cooking demonstrations and tastings.
• Blacksmith demonstrations.