Farewell to Garlic Festival shepherd

Our community will bid a sad farewell to Richard Nicholls, the
executive director of the Gilroy Garlic Festival since 1985,
Saturday morning at the Gilroy Presbyterian Church.
His death from pancreatic cancer came swiftly; a thief in the
night robbed us of our steward, the gentle man who led legions of
volunteers to triumph every year at the end of July for two
decades.
Our community will bid a sad farewell to Richard Nicholls, the executive director of the Gilroy Garlic Festival since 1985, Saturday morning at the Gilroy Presbyterian Church.

His death from pancreatic cancer came swiftly; a thief in the night robbed us of our steward, the gentle man who led legions of volunteers to triumph every year at the end of July for two decades.

In the end, the equation is quite simple: the Garlic

Festival has largely defined Gilroy and Dick Nicholls has largely defined the Garlic Festival. Ponder the wonder of that legacy.

The Garlic Festival has meant much more to Gilroy than the millions of dollars reaped for a multitude of community organizations. It has meant much more than “putting Gilroy on the map.”

The festival’s imprint has stamped the very soul of Gilroy. Its mark is left in volunteerism, in generosity, in working together for common goals, in teaching young people to be a part of their community and in showing the world, in fabulous fashion, why Gilroy is great.

Therein lies the spirit of Dick Nicholls, who carefully helped weave the beautiful tapestry that is our hometown. Dick Nicholls’ ego always rode in the back seat. The festival, and its volunteers, came first. He embodied the perfect recipe for self-effacing leadership: heaping measures of care and appreciation combined with a perennial willingness to pitch in whatever the task.

He was our Garlic Festival shepherd, watching over the flock of volunteers by quietly supporting and advising those who rose to leadership positions as committee chairs and presidents. He adapted to all the personalities comfortably because his mission did not change and his heart did not waver. Moderation ruled the festival because Dick Nicholls protected it from the forces that could destroy it. Contemplating new ideas and shifting winds, he would always return to the bedrock question: Was it good for the festival, not just financially for a short period, but for the long term – and would the results reflect well on our community? He was a true gentleman in the finest sense of the word. Our festival has reflected that.

Often, the spectacular flames bursting from the

massive calamari pans are used as the symbol of Garlic Festival success. Dick Nicholls’ slow-burning passion for an unrivaled community event ignited and fueled those flames.

The gentle bear who competently and confidently roamed the festival grounds each July with his trademark straw hat and ruddy cheeks will be there next month – and always – in spirit. Our tribute to him should be simple. All we must do is ask, “Will it be good for the festival in the long term and will it reflect well on our community?”

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