MONTICELLO - At first, people laughed at Jeff Siegel for his idea to launch a festival dedicated to Monticello's bagel history.
Siegel said that after Broadway in the village was ripped up for utility repairs several years ago, business owners wondered how to get people back downtown.
"One day, I was like, 'Uh, let’s have a bagel festival,' and they were like, 'Nobody is going to come to a bagel festival. That’s the dumbest idea we’ve ever heard in our entire life,'" Siegel said Sunday, standing in the middle of Broadway as crowds thronged past him at this year's Bagel Festival.
But Siegel had heard from a global tourism expert that the best way to attract people to a certain area is to capitalize on something unique to that community.
When Siegel found out that the man who invented a key part of the patented bagel-making machine was from Monticello, he knew he had his hook.
Now locals still laugh at the idea of a bagel-themed festival, but it's a different kind of laugh, he said.
"The first laugh was like, 'You’re nuts and we’re not going to do anything,'" Siegel said.
"Now it’s like, ‘Yeah, might’ve been a nutty idea, but there’s a lot of nuts on the street!'"
About 5,000 people attended the first Bagel Festival in 2013.
Siegel, now vice president of the Monticello Chamber of Commerce, estimated about 1 p.m. that 10,000 people were at this year's event.
Festivities included a bagel triathalon, live music, a car show and bagel-themed crafts.
But no vendor was quite as busy as the Monticello Bagel Bakery, a family-owned Broadway business that dates back to the 1960s.
Manager George Seitz said employees had worked nonstop since 6:30 a.m., offering their locally famous bagels.
Rainbow bagels were a big hit; Seitz said they were made of six different-colored doughs twisted and baked into circular treats.
Seitz made 80 dozen of the colorful bagels for Snday. By noon, he had just 15 bagels left.
Some locals came out for their first bagel-fest experience, like Barbara Thompson, of Loch Sheldrake, and her six-year-old daughter Onamarie.
Others, like the Morales family from Loch Sheldrake, have made an annual visit to the festival since 2013.
Edwin Morales Sr., his wife, Margarita, and their children Edwin Jr., and Isabel, walked along Broadway with matching rainbow tie-dye festival shirts and hats.
And, of course, they had just finished eating rainbow bagels.
"Every year we come," Edwin Morales, Sr., said. "We want to support the community, you know?"