– Smelly, dirty, sunburned and wearing blindingly fluorescent
T-shirts, they are what makes the Garlic Festival tick – the Garlic
Festival volunteers willingly completing tasks that would make the
average person want to cry. Underneath the blazing sun, they park
cars, pick up trash and clean the b
aked-on, food encrusted vats of Gourmet Alley.
GILROY – Smelly, dirty, sunburned and wearing blindingly fluorescent T-shirts, they are what makes the Garlic Festival tick – the Garlic Festival volunteers willingly completing tasks that would make the average person want to cry. Underneath the blazing sun, they park cars, pick up trash and clean the baked-on, food encrusted vats of Gourmet Alley.
The awards for the dirtiest, smelliest, most undesirable jobs at the Garlic Festival go hands-down to the parking volunteers, the Gourmet Alley clean-up crew and the garbage busters.
The parking volunteers are responsible for what may be the most important aspect of the festival – the parking lots.
“Parking is the Rodney Dangerfield of the festival,” said long-time parking volunteer Janet Wenholz. “What goes on outside colors what happens inside. You could have trouble finding parking, or something could happen in the parking lot and it could ruin your whole day.”
Parking volunteers are responsible for grooming the lots, directing traffic (to keep cars from backing up on the freeway) and leading cars into parking spots, as well as assisting people who have lost their cars or children.
“We rescue people,” said Wenholz. “It’s fun to be the hero.”
The parking lots are dirty and hot. It can be a miserable and thankless job. But volunteers just keep coming back for more.
“It’s fun,” said Lauren Bevilacqua, 15, who has been a volunteer for nine years. “It’s one of the worst jobs out there. But I’ve met a lot of cool people.”
The volunteers of the Gourmet Alley clean-up crew are the unseen heroes of the Garlic Festival. When everyone else has gone home for the day, those brave few come out and clean the pots, pans and vats that have been sitting in the hot sun, baking pesto, scampi and marinara sauces onto the enamel.
“We clean what needs to be cleaned and scrub what needs to be scrubbed,” said Tony Gracia, spokesperson for Victory Outreach Church.
Victory Outreach, a nonprofit organization that offers special services for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts, has been in charge of cleaning Gourmet Alley for the past 10 years. The opportunity helps the volunteers learn about good work ethics, he said.
“It’s not glamorous but we’ve got the manpower to do it,” said Gracia.
Who are the young men riding all over the festival in tractors, replacing smelly garbage bins that are filled to the brim with fresh ones? The Gilroy basketball and wrestling teams, led by coaches Mike Baumgartner and Armondo Gonzales.
They call themselves the garbage busters, and they take the cake with one of the more appreciated, but still dirty jobs at the Garlic Festival.
Garbage busters, as young as 12, start work two days before the festival and don’t finish until two days after. The money the boys earn goes a long way to paying for team equipment, uniforms and tournament expenses.
Rudy Maldonado, 13, isn’t in high school yet, but he’s been a garbage buster for several years.
“We want to have enough money (for the wrestling team) when we get to high school,” he said.