Dining With Denise Neil

Follow that pungent aroma to Wichita’s first Garlic Fest

Orie’s Garlic Fest, a first-time event celebrating the joys of the pungent, flavorful blubs, will happen this weekend in Wichita.
Orie’s Garlic Fest, a first-time event celebrating the joys of the pungent, flavorful blubs, will happen this weekend in Wichita.

Yes, it’s almost Halloween. And yes, garlic supposedly wards off thirsty vampires.

But the timing is all just a coincidence, insists Megan Greenway, who along with her partner, Wes Johnson, is putting on Wichita’s first-ever Garlic Fest at their urban farm near West 21st Street and 119th.

Orie’s Garlic Fest happens from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at Orie’s Farm Fresh, 1805 N. 119th St. It’ll feature bulbs and bulbs of different varieties of garlic for sale, garlicked food prepared by local restaurants, art vendors, cooking and farming demonstrations, face painting, pumpkin painting and live music.

The couple had long wanted to put on a public festival at their eight-acre farm, where they’ve lived for three years, and garlic is one of their main crops. They planted 5,000 bulbs this year and have plans to plant even more this fall, Greenway said.

Garlic festivals, which celebrate all the stinky joys of the pungent bulbs, are a thing all over the country, the couple noticed. Why couldn’t they be a thing in Wichita, too?

“We’ve been wanting to have an event at our farm for a while, and we thought a garlic festival would be fun and fitting,” Greenway said.

The couple’s farm is named after Johnson’s grandfather, Orie, who had his own Wichita farm in the 1930s and 1940s. They also named their 2-year-old son Orie.

Johnson and Greenway have been selling their garlic at Wichita’s two main farmers markets, and their customers have loved it, Greenway said. They grow about 30 different varieties, and they’ve enjoyed teaching people that grocery store garlic is far from the only garlic that exists.

“We’ve noticed that our customers are really excited about having different options for garlic,” Green way said. “We take between five and 15 different kinds of garlic to the market at a time, and it’s fun to talk to people about subtle differences.”

Orie’s does grow silverskin garlic, the kind most frequently sold at grocery stores. But they also have purple stripe, which is creamy, sweet and good for roasting. And they have artichoke varieties, which have a more subtle, less spicy flavor profile.

Among the local restaurants that will be selling food at the festival is Public at the Brickyard, which will be serving bison burgers with garlic aioli. Beautiful Day Cafe will serve veggie-loaded breakfast burritos, and Little Lion Ice Cream has developed a garlic ice cream. Sunflower Espresso also will be there serving coffee (sans garlic.)

Krista Sanderson from Eat Real America will show how to cook with farm-fresh garlic, and farm owner Johnson will share tips on growing garlic. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and picnic baskets.

Luke Snow of FarmShop LLC, who took over management of the Old Town Farmers Market this year, is helping to put on Sunday’s event.

Admission to the festival is $10 for adults, free for children 12 and under. Each paid admission earns a festival attendee a free bulb of garlic to take home.

Garlic in the news

The Garlic Festival was a surprising addition to the Wichita City Council agenda this week. The event, it seems, was almost derailed by neighbor complaints and zoning issues.

The farm is accessible only by a gravel road, and parking will be in a mown hayfield, both technically illegal under the city code. That generated some complaints to City Hall and festival organizers had to scramble to get a special permit on Tuesday for the Sunday event.

After a lengthy discussion, the City Council unanimously approved the permit. But Mayor Jeff Longwell strongly urged the organizers to find another venue next year.

Longwell said 119th is a two-lane street and festival traffic will be fed into a single long driveway at the farm, which could cause traffic problems.

“My concern is this isn’t the best place to have a large community-wide event,” he said.

Greenway said the organizers didn’t even know they’d need an event permit because it’s private property and “it’s just for a few hours.”

Luke Snow, a member of the Wichita Health and Wellness Foundation board, said he didn’t see what the problem was.

The organizers took care of every logistical issue they could think of, including renting portable toilets and hiring two off-duty sheriff’s deputies to direct traffic, he said.

“This is a family friendly, neighborhood friendly, Sunday afternoon event in a location that really works well for something like this,” he said.

Greenway said that she and Johnson were never 100 percent sold on having the festival at the farm, so it’s possible they would have looked for a different venue for future festivals, anyway.

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