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Get into the STINK of things

NEWS-TIMES/TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - Garlic rules this weekend's at the North Plains Elephant Garlic Festival.Garlic is huge in North Plains. It’s such a big deal that a celebration of the odiferous herb comes in the form of the Elephant Garlic Festival every year.

Friday, Aug. 12, will mark the 19th year of the three-day event at Jessie Mays Community Park, 30975 N.W. Hillcrest St.

For years, thousands of people have gathered at the park to experience two evenings and three days of music, food, entertainment and fun. But it wasn’t always this way.

The festival started in 1994 as a community event called North Plains Days. It featured a parade, bed races and other simple pleasures like live music. Gradually vendors were added to sell food and crafts and the event expanded to three days.

As the event grew in popularity, Bob Ganos, a local farmer, suggested that the festival adopt the elephant garlic theme, and in 1997 the North Plains Elephant Garlic Festival was born. The purpose of the festival is to provide a fun, free local event for the community, with art and music a central part of the weekend.

The festival has grown even larger in recent years, attracting between 20,000 to 25,000 people over the course of the weekend, according to Patti Smith, who has coordinated the festival since 2003. North Plains’ population hovers around 2,000, so the festival balloons the small town for a short time.

This year’s theme is “May the Stink Be With You,” a nod to a line from the popular Star Wars saga.

Friday features a food cooking competition between some of the food vendors on-site. The weekend features quite a range of eats — with tacos, elephant ears, kettle corn, pie, gyros, oysters and more, there’s something to please even the pickiest of palates. There will also be crafts vendors offering up a wide variety of fun artsy projects and creations.

Saturday opens with a pancake breakfast at the senior center and a 5K/10K walk. There will also be a garlic-themed parade rolling through town, featuring the Garlic King and Queen handing out garlic, as well as different floats — including one of a huge elephant, which represents the mascot of the festival.

Stinkee, the mascot, is part elephant and part garlic.

“Every part of it is just great fun,” said Smith.

In previous years the festival featured a car show, but this year the formula changed, and a bike show will debut instead. Jasper & Company, a motorcycle shop in North Plains, will put on a show Saturday afternoon showcasing bikes of all kinds. The show will include awards in categories like Best American, Best Custom, Best Vintage Bike and more. That’s not the only competition happening, as there is also a poker run event in the works as well.

Of course, every festival needs some kind of music, and the extravaganza will feature an eclectic mix to entertain the masses. Bryan Podwys & Dan Abrahamson, Bootleg Ridge, Sweetwater, Joyride, the Jolie Frank Trio, and Skybound Blue are just some of the artists who’ll be sending tunes aloft as the weekend unfolds. The music will span the genres of rock, country, dance, gospel, blues, jazz, Americana and dance.

“We want everyone to come out and have a good time,” Smith said. “It’s a very family-friendly event, there’s great food, great music, a lot to do and a lot to see.”

For more information on the 2016 Elephant Garlic Festival, visit funstinks.com.