North Plains celebrates 20 years of Elephant Garlic Festival
Things in North Plains are about to get stinky.
The 20th annual Elephant Garlic Festival runs through Sunday, Aug. 13 at North Plains' Jessie Mays Community Park. But while thousands will enjoy music, local vendors and garlic flavored ice cream, plans are in the works to expand the festival over the next several years.
"We can't grow any bigger where we are," said Patti Burns, who has coordinated the annual event for the past 15 years.
Over the next three days, 25,000 people are expected to attend the annual festival — more than 10 times the population of North Plains, a small town located north of Hillsboro on Glencoe Road. Burns said that there's a reason the festival brings in big crowds year after year.
"People love the garlic, and the family atmosphere," she said.
City Council President Sherrie Simmons has volunteered at the celebration since 2003. She says it's a time for the community to come together, and to share what North Plains has to offer with a wider audience.
"The whole community comes out for it," she said. "Friday nights, it's a lot of local people, and everybody else comes out Saturday and Sunday."
The festival got its start as North Plains Days, but morphed into the Elephant Garlic Festival two decades ago. Every booth has to have something garlic related, Burns said. Even the beer garden, which brews a garlic-infused Hefeweizen.
"It's actually really good," Simmons said.
The festival has proven to be popular, drawing attendees from not only across the Portland area, but from around the world.
"They come from every corner of the United States and other countries," Burns said. "Several years ago we had people from seven different countries in the same weekend."
Check it out
What: North Plains Elephant Garlic Festival
Where: Jessie Mays Community Park, 30975 N.W. Hillcrest St.
When: Friday, Aug. 11 - Sunday, Aug. 13
How much: Free
The North Plains celebration is the only garlic festival in Oregon, Burns said, but some garlic lovers tour the country, attending several garlic festivals each year.
"One family started in Texas and went to all the garlic festivals there and in New York, and Pennsylvania, then California," Burns said. "They made their way here."
But with an ever-growing fan base, the festival is out-growing its current home, Burns said. She hopes to have the festival moved to a larger location within the next six years.
"There aren't enough tables and chairs for everybody as it is," said Simmons. "When the last band plays at night, you should see it. It's standing room only here. And then, just barely."
Burns said the festival's size has meant they've had to hold back on introducing new elements to the annual festival, such as a large cooking competition.
North Plains has been dealing with growth issues for the past few years.
The city is expected to double in size by 2021. With a new housing development planned to begin construction later this year north of the city, Burns and Simmons said plans are in the works to build a new park large enough to house the festival.
"We want to have an area that's larger than this," Burns said overlooking the park. "Something with ample parking, and all the infrastructure we need — water, electricity, bathrooms. That's what we're hoping for."
A second elementary school could also be built in North Plain should voters approve a $408 million bond later this fall. Burns said that might also serve as a home for the festival.
"If we're going to keep it up, we need to be able to grow it," she said. "This space is filled, and you know that there's not enough room."