From the beer booth to the captain’s chair

– When Kurt Chacon moved to Gilroy 15 years ago, his neighbor
and future Garlic Festival president, Jim Habing, introduced him to
festival volunteering.
GILROY – When Kurt Chacon moved to Gilroy 15 years ago, his neighbor and future Garlic Festival president, Jim Habing, introduced him to festival volunteering. Over the years he has poured beer for the Chamber of Commerce, greeted visitors on shuttle buses and planned with the utilities committee.

Looking back, Chacon never guessed that he would be president of the 2002 Gilroy Garlic Festival.

“Being involved with the festival becomes a part of what you do. Someone needed to do it and I felt it was something I could do correctly,” said Chacon.

With a supportive board and a shared vision, Chacon is prepared to take on the challenge. He views the festival as a business and understands that local organizations depend on its success.

“First and foremost (the board has) great pride in the festival. They are very protective of (its) reputation,” said Chacon.

The board is especially particular in deciding which sponsors will participate in the festival.

As president, Chacon oversees all aspects of the festival, communicating its mission to provide “benefits to local worthy charities and nonprofit groups by promoting the community of Gilroy through a quality celebration of garlic.” Chacone also spends hundreds of hours working with the Garlic Festival board and its more than 30 committees to approve budgets, select sponsors and prepare for the event.

One of Chacon’s main focuses this year is to bring Gourmet Alley and the festival back together.

“Over the years there has been a separation,” he said.

He hopes “to bring the festival into the alley and the alley out to the festival.” Gourmet Alley Chair Hugh Davis worked to reunite the two entities, and starting this year he will pipe music from the festival stages into the area.

Chacon also hopes to match last year’s profits of $263,000 and would be disappointed if he didn’t. Due to a prediction for pleasant weather and boosted promotions, he is confident the festival will exceed 2001’s earnings.

“The chair of promotions, Julie Jackson, has been dynamite.” he said.

Chacon treats his presidency as he does his job. He has worked for 22 years as an electrical contractor for Redwood City Electric, located in San Jose. To stay organized, he broke down committees and assigned projects and goals. He also e-mailed people to remain productive in between meetings.

The time commitment has been well worth it.

“I am enjoying every minute of this,” he said. “It’s been a great experience.” He has enjoyed experiencing all aspects of the festival, meeting new people, and collaborating with fellow volunteers. The highlight so far was kindling the giant garlic bulb flame downtown during the Garlic City Fun Run car show he said.

“I’ve never been more excited about a festival. So many things are going right.”After spending a few years as an average volunteer, Chacon became more involved as assistant chair and chair of Utilities Committee. Then after a year as a general board member, he made the two-year commitment to serve as vice president and president.

He lives with his wife, Tina, and four children, who have been very supportive of his involvement in the festival.

Chacon has been active in the St. Mary’s Parish, where three of his children currently attend school. Next year he will serve as past president, but plans to devote more time to St. Mary’s and his family.

“The festival is something I am proud to be involved in,” he said. “It makes you appreciate what a great community Gilroy is for the commitment people (make to) the festival.”

Leave your comments