Saturday, August 2, 2014

The Gilroy Garlic Festival

Last weekend we were in California visiting our son and daughter-in-law.  We happened to be there for the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival.  Kelly is from Gilroy and we had heard a lot about the festival - particularly the wide assortment of food offerings that include garlic.

Gilroy is the "Garlic Capital of the World" and this was the 36th annual Garlic Festival.  It is held on the last full weekend in July each year and, in addition to the food, there are three stages with entertainment, arts & crafts booths, cooking demonstrations and competitions, and all sorts of activities for kids.  You can find the festival website HERE if you would like to know more about the festival.

Our nephew (the tall one second from the right) is working in San Francisco this summer and he came along to the festival with one of his classmates from Michigan.  It was a hot day so I grabbed this photo just as we arrived (while everyone was relatively cool and relaxed).  You can see the huge Christopher Ranch Garlic truck behind them.

The Official Gourmet Alley is in the center of the festival.  There are a lot of choices including several combo plates if you can't decide on just one item.

One of the highlights for me was the amazing garlic bread.  Volunteers work to assemble this delicious treat (it was so good that we gobbled it all up before I thought to take a photo).

There is a row of grills where huge frying pans are used to saute the garlic.  The cooks are called Pyro Chefs (see the red apron).  I can't imagine how hot it must be for them but they seemed to be having fun.

What would a festival be without a queen and her court?  The Annual Gilroy Garlic Festival Queen Pageant is held to choose the Queen and includes personal interview, talent, an evening gown competition, and a garlic speech (of course!). The Queen and her court represent Gilroy at various events leading up to the Festival and, as I read on the website, "most importantly, they spend all three days at the festival having a garlicky good time with fellow lovers of the pungent bulb."

Every so often, the Gourmet Alley Pyro Chefs do a "flame-up" which is very impressive and just a tad frightening!

In addition to the official Gourmet Alley offerings, you can find many other food choices around the grounds.  This combination of signs gives you an idea of the "garlic on everything" atmosphere!

There are several places where people line up to take photos with iconic backgrounds such as this inflatable garlic mascot.

I spotted  live version of the garlic man walking around (with a guide to help with navigating through the crowds).  Another job that looks like a very hot way to spend the day!


There are several cooking competitions - the Great Garlic Cook-Off takes place in a large pavilion with grandstand seating.

When we got to the pavilion where the competitions were held they were announcing the winners.  The seats were filled but we could see some of what was happening on the jumbo screens.

I noticed quite a few people carrying their own shade.  Some with regular umbrellas and others with pretty parasols.

There may have been booths selling these as well.  It certainly helped to be out of the sun whenever possible.

Just getting a chance to sit down in the shade of the trees made a big difference.  The heat is dryer than we are used to at home - but when you are standing in the sun it is hot!

This rain tent also was popular.  When you stand inside you get sprayed with a fine mist of water and it cools you as it evaporates.

I can't figure out if this activity would cool you off or make you get even hotter.  Kids were able to walk on water in these inflatable "hamster balls."  You have to be just the right size (shorter than me!) to try this.

Gilroy has several "sister cities" around the world.

Some of them have their own celebrations of garlic!

There is a shop for garlic and memorabilia set up in a tent.

You could buy posters for the festival in this booth. There is an official poster each year and also an art competition to design a poster.  You can see the winners HERE.

I was tempted to buy some garlic to bring home but I didn't want to risk breakage or crushing in the suitcase which could lead to garlic scented clothing!

There were lots varieties of garlic headgear, including this sombrero type hat...

...and a beret.

My favorites were  the garlic crowns (but I don't think they gave much sun protection).

This t-shirt sums up the Festival quite well!

The Garlic Festival has raised over 10 million dollars for charity since it began in 1979.  Thousands of volunteers help each year to make it such a success.

These bobble heads (collected over the years by Kelly's mother) help to celebrate garlic after the weekend is over.  We had a great time at the Festival and lots more fun with family for the rest of the weekend.

The Garlic Festival reminded me of the Grange Fair that I grew up with.  My parents were very active in the Grange and it was an August tradition to help out at the Fair.  Do you have a Fair or Festival that you have attended for years?  Have you ever done a journal or scrapbook page about it?  I think I will try to find some of the Fair photos (and maybe even some of the ribbons I won) and make a few pages to preserve those memories.

Have a great weekend!

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  1. OMG this looks like so much fun......thanks for sharing I've hear of this on the Food Network channel but your share was the best awesome pics...really enjoyed it.
    I do love garlic.....I'll bet the aroma was magnificent.....yuuuuummmmm!!

    1. Hi Joan - It was a lot of fun, particularly if you love garlic! The smell was lovely and not too overpowering (it is held in a big park). If you are ever in the area at the right time of the year it's worth a trip.

  2. Loved reading this post Diane x

    1. Hi Enfys - I think you would have had fun tasting all of the treats! Hope all is well with you - when are you coming to the States again?

  3. That looks like so much fun...especially since I LOVE garlic! Wish I could try the garlic and herb potato chips. Your pictures and "tour" were just great!

    1. Thanks - I am glad you enjoyed the photos. The food that I tried was all very good and if you love garlic this is the place to be! It really is quite an event - the flaming of the garlic is amazing.

  4. Great photos. Thank you for the virtual tour. So did you try the garlic ice cream?

    1. We actually didn't get a taste. There was an enormous line for the free samples and a line nearly as long to buy the ice cream. It is basically vanilla soft serve with some garlic powder mixed in. Our nephew had some and he said it was OK but not something to stand in line for! Maybe next time we get to go to the Festival we'll get some...

  5. Thanks for the cool blog post, Diane! We enjoyed having you guys come and experience this! Some years it is actually not quite so hot (no guarantees...).... wonderful pictures!

    1. Thanks again for your hospitality -it was a great coincidence of timing with Steve's trip to Sacramento. We enjoyed the entire weekend and loved seeing the little kids too!

  6. Thanks for the great post, Diane. We've been to the Garlic Festival many times as Gilroy is on the way to our favorite getaway spot in Carmel. It is amazing how many people the festival draws and what can be done with a lowly garlic. Fun!

    1. Thanks - it really does attract visitors from far and wide. We saw the traffic in the southbound lanes as we were headed to the airport on Sunday. I have new respect for the wonders of garlic!


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