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Finding Minnesota: Smelly Celebration At Garlic Fest

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(credit: CBS) Mike Binkley
Mike Binkley has been covering Minnesota news for more than 25 year...
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By Mike Binkley, WCCO-TV

HUTCHINSON, Minn. (WCCO) — Of all the great summer festivals in this state, you could say this one stinks, but the food they serve tastes so good.

The fifth annual Minnesota Garlic Festival will be held on Aug. 14 at the McLeod County fairgrounds, with 13 garlic farmers taking part.

One of them, Jerry Ford of Howard Lake, has been busy harvesting a crop that he admits is fragrant, to put it nicely.

“There’s a nice one,” said Ford, as he pulled an especially large specimen from the ground.

He and his wife, Marienne Kreitlow, are really into garlic.

“You know, there’s a lot of folklore behind it,” said Kreitlow. “Everything from, ya know, it makes men very virile, to (it) keeps away evil spirits.”

“That’s kind of the bragging rights,” added Ford. “We’ve got big garlic.”

Jerry and Marienne were two of the founders of the Minnesota Garlic Festival, now going into its fifth year.

“It’s quirky,” said Ford. “I mean, a rutabaga festival? Naaah. Garlic Festival? Oh yeah!”

There are more than a hundred varieties of garlic grown in Minnesota alone. Jerry and Marienne grow a variety known as Music, which is perfect for them because they were entertainers before they were farmers. They’ll sing some of Marienne’s original songs about garlic at the festival.

But as much fun as they have with it, this is also serious business. The garlic they and others in Minnesota grow is gourmet “heirloom” garlic that people display in their kitchens. It spends at least two weeks in the curing process.

“Once we do cut it, and cut the roots off and clean it up and make it all pretty for you,” said Ford, “it’s going to store for months in your kitchen.”

Celebrity chefs attend the festival, with everything from garlic cream cheese and ice cream to gazpacho, flavored with roasted garlic.

“And I like to top it with a delicious mayo that’s cut with a little bit of whipped cream and made with bacon fat,” said Mary Jane Miller, the festival’s so-called “Maven of Mmmmm.”

The festival is a celebration of community, as much as anything for Jerry and Marienne.

“If we weren’t having fun doing this,” said Ford, “we’re going to go out and get real jobs, you know?”

The Minnesota Garlic Festival is sponsored by the Sustainable Farming Association. You can read more about it in the “Stinky News,” which Ford publishes online.

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