CLOUDY skies and the occasional light shower weren’t enough to deter the 5000+ garlic lovers who descended upon Meeniyan last Saturday to enjoy the inaugural Meeniyan Garlic Festival.
The event, which was auspiced by the Meeniyan Tourism and Traders Association, was a win-win for the town, as any profits will go to towards community projects in the town.
The festival went off without a hitch, beginning with a welcome from Leon Trembath, chair of the Garlic Institute of Australia, followed by a presentation on the growing, harvesting and curing of garlic by gardening guru Penny Woodward. Despite being an author, editor and broadcaster, Penny admitted to feeling a little nervous, speaking in front of over 300 people. Penny’s presentation was so popular in fact, that the Meeniyan Town Hall (and foyer) were packed to capacity!
Across the road, a long line of people queued to purchase garlic ice-cream and the general consensus was that this unusual flavour combination works together extremely well.
Those with a serious interest in the cultivation of garlic – whether on a private or commercial basis – enjoyed presentations from the experts, while foodies enjoyed cooking demonstrations by Alejandro Saravia – executive chef at Melbourne’s premier Peruvian restaurant, ‘Pastuso,’ sous chef Andreas from Movida Aqui, and from local chefs Maria Stuart of Millie & Romeo’s Cooking School, Koonwarra and Meg Viney-Bell.
Book-lovers were treated to book signing sessions by celebrity chef Stefanie Alexander and Melbourne food writer, author and events host Richard Cornish.
Adding to the wonderful atmosphere was terrific entertainment from Jane and James, local band Beggs to Differ, from the Aria award winning Choir of Hard Knocks, and from Nicholas Jones – principal artist with Opera Australia who happens to be the son of Kirsten and David Jones – proprietors of the Meeniyan Store and Mirboo North garlic farmers who instigated the Meeniyan Garlic Festival – the first of its type in Victoria.
The festival certainly drew attendees from far and wide; a quick survey highlighing that many of the visitors travelled from Melbourne , the Mornington Peninsula, the Latrobe Valley and some from as far away as Wangaratta, Albury, Coleraine and Castlemaine.
Crowds returned to the Meeniyan Town Hall on Saturday evening to enjoy entertainment from the Brunswick Women’s Choir and local group Acoustic Kitchen.
In between listening to educational talks, watching cooking demos and listening to some wonderful music, there was plenty to do, such as investigate the plethora of eating options which ranged from Peruvian to Indian, Greek and Chinese (most of which had totally sold out by the end of the day) and to marvel at the creativity of the many who entered the vegetable sculpture competition.
The success of the event was another great example of how a small community can work together brilliantly to make things happen for their town. Over 100 volunteers chipped in on the day to manage traffic, man the gates and stalls, and to oversee children’s games.
It was just another great example of a small community that works brilliantly together to make things happen for their town, with over 100 volunteers chipping in on the day to manage traffic, gates, children’s games, stalls etc. The festival was auspiced by the Meeniyan Tourism and Traders Association and any profits will go to community projects in the town.
The festival created enormous town pride and indications are that you can expect to see the second Meeniyan Garlic Festival in February next year.