Garlic Fest Dishes Out Record Cash

Association sends out $300,000, $75,000 more than last year
Gilroy – Some residents worried that a Grand Prix race in San Jose would steal away visitors. Others fretted about higher ticket prices. But despite the anxiety swirling around the 27th annual Garlic Festival, organizers managed to strike garlic gold.

This week, officials with the nonprofit Garlic Festival Association mailed out a record-setting $300,000 in checks to 170 local organizations. The summer festival, held the last weekend of July, raised $75,000 more than last year and $30,000 more than the record-setting 25th anniversary in 2003.

This summer’s event drew 129,644 visitors to the artist’s tents, food booths, music stages and other annual attractions assembled at Christmas Hill Park.

In addition to facing competition on the same weekend from the first-ever Grand Prix race in San Jose, the city lost Richard Nicholls, the man who orchestrated the festival for the last 24 years.

“I’m proud of Gilroy and proud of how we came together in a difficult year,” festival president Jennifer Speno said. “The festival faced many challenges and because of the association’s spirit and support we were able to rally together and pull off this incredible event.”

Joann Kessler, assistant executive director of the Garlic Festival Association, said she never really worried that the Grand Prix would undercut attendance. In fact, she believes the media’s efforts to pit the two events against each other helped boost attendance by 7,000 people from last year’s numbers.

“All exposure is good exposure,” Kessler said. “We just said bring it on for next year too.”

The festival donations represent the sweat of more than 4,000 volunteers who sold food, directed traffic, picked up litter and performed countless other jobs to keep the three-day event running smoothly. Each volunteer channels their hourly wages to a charity of their choice.

In past years, the local Elks Lodge has been the top earner. This year, volunteers working on behalf of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce edged out the Elks by bringing in $16,170.

“I am really happy about this,” chamber president Raul Vega said. “We have a lot of volunteers every year and many of the same come back and donate their time each year.”

Vega said the organization would use the festival proceeds to fulfill the second half of a $10,000 pledge to a fundraising campaign for a new arts center, scheduled for construction in downtown Gilroy within the next three years. The remainder of the funds would go toward providing tuition for Leadership Gilroy, a program that cultivates community leadership, and other local causes.

Some groups fell in the rankings of top earners this year but still managed to pull down more charity dollars than in the past, according to Kessler. She explained that increased revenues combined with greater efficiency spelled better “wages” for volunteers, who brought in $7.38 for their charities for each hour worked. Last year, volunteers earned $5.43 per hour.

Rebekah Children’s Services fell from fourth to fifth place this year, but their earnings jumped from $8,207 to $10,361.

“I’m not complaining,” said an ecstatic Eleanor Villarreal, chief development officer for the children’s charity. “Even though we fell in the rankings, I’m still dancing.”

She said the group, which has participated in the festival for 17 years, uses the proceeds for building projects. Festival proceeds have already helped construct two youth dormitories and a recreation facility. This year’s funds will go toward a new school.

The Garlic Festival has contributed more than $7.2 million to local groups over the last 27 years.

Speno, who now hands over leadership of the festival to Micki Pirozzoli, plans to continue working as a volunteer.

Reflecting on a hectic year of planning and the record-setting reward for so many groups, Speno said: “I’m just happy to be able to walk away with such a great year.”

Top 10 earners

Amount Organization

1. $16,169.73 Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

2. $15,624.18 Gilroy Elks Lodge #1567

3. $15,388.38 Gilroy High School Wrestling

4. $13,333.56 South Valley Community Church

5. $10,360.89 Rebekah Children’s Services

6. $9,310.90 Gilroy High School Choir

7. $8,852.33 Orchard Valley Soccer Pumas

8. $8,724.30 Live Oak High School ‘Emerald Regime’

9. $8,617.68 St. Mary School

10. $8,181.07 Gilroy Gators Swim Team

Complete list

Award Organization

$1,470.64 Adams 4-H

$1,317.67 American Ass’n. of University Women

$260.81 American Cancer Society

$1,254.54 American Cancer Society – Relay For Life Gilroy

$15.53 American Lung Association

$3,093.66 American Red Cross

$881.76 Antonio Del Buono School

$1,228.32 Antonio Del Buono Parent Club

$1,767.15 Antonio Del Buono Special Day Class

$887.12 Antonio Del Buono Violin Program

$493.50 Anzar High School

$1,836 Ascencion Solarsano MS

$498.15 Ascencion Solarsano MS Math Dept

$99.36 Bellermine College Preparatory

$481.95 Beta Sigma Phi Delta Mu Zeta

$1,564 Beta Sigma Phi Laureate Kappa Zeta

$29.56 Bethany Church Youth Dept

$37.10 Bethany College Women’s Basketball

$860.10 Boy Scouts of America Troop #400

$1,232.34 Boy Scouts of America Troop #707

$800.53 Boy Scouts of America Troop #711

$2,786.72 Boy Scouts of America Troop #730

$1,173.38 Brownell Academy Band Program

$1,226.05 Brownell Academy Parents Club

$144.98 Brownell Academy Special Ed

$911.43 Christians in Commerce

$1,339.56 City of Gilroy Kids Discover Art

$2,407.53 City of Gilroy Therapeutic Recreation

$849.15 Congregation Emeth

$634.95 CSEA of Gavilan #270

$170.78 Cub Scout Pack #794

$1,721.25 Daughters of American Revolution

$1,210.84 DeAnza Force Soccer Club, Inc

$245.85 EAHS Band

$186.25 EAHS Drama

$558.75 EAHS Parent Club

$29.80 EAHS Wrestling

$551.95 El Roble Parent Club

$33.39 El Roble School

$117.75 Eliot School – 5th Grade

$1,436.90 Eliot School Library Fund

$27.95 Equine Assisted Therapy-Mountain Valley

$58.10 Exchange Club of Gilroy

$62.10 First Baptist Church of Gilroy

$3,835.19 Garlic Valley Amateur Radio Club

$2,815.20 Gateway Center

$196.63 Gavilan College Community Choir

$4,620.50 Gavilan Cosmetology Club

$877.73 Gavilan Police Academy

$1,913.34 GHS Ag Boosters

$59.12 GHS Art & Literary Magazine

$58.10 GHS Associated Student Body

$151.29 GHS Athletics

$2,588.18 GHS Band/Color Guard Boosters

$7,427.40 GHS Boys Basketball

$4,401.47 GHS Boys Soccer

$404.68 GHS Boys Volleyball

$37.10 GHS Chamber Choir

$3,298.32 GHS Cheerleaders

$9,310.90 GHS Choir

$749.65 GHS Cross Country Team

$2,516.58 GHS Girls Field Hockey

$1,184.88 GHS Girls Soccer

$170.05 GHS Girls Softball

$1,735.22 GHS Girls Volleyball

$1,247.05 GHS Grad Night

$58.10 GHS GSA Club

$365.31 GHS Gymnastics

$615.68 GHS Latinas Program

$2,395.24 GHS Latinos Program

$104.74 GHS Marching Band

$1,083.59 GHS Parent Club

$1,717.42 GHS Quarterback Club

$2,302.65 GHS Swim & Girls Water Polo Teams

$432.94 GHS Track & Field

$15,388.38 GHS Wrestling

$15,624.18 Gilroy Elks Lodge #1567

$87.57 Gilroy Fire Department

$24.84 Gilroy Foods Sunshine Club

$95.45 Gilroy Foundation – SakaBozzo Scholarship

$688.06 Gilroy Gang Task Force

$8,181.07 Gilroy Gators Swim Team

$1,240.98 Gilroy Historical Society

$2,067.71 Gilroy JACL

$387.75 Gilroy Jaycees

$3,698.79 Gilroy Paid Call Firefighters Assn

$6,812.76 Gilroy Police Explorers Post 818

$5,547.96 Gilroy Presbyterian Church

$147.80 Gilroy Presbyterian Church Mexicali Mission

$1,373.73 Gilroy Presbyterian Church Youth Group

$310.50 Gilroy Senior Center

$24.84 Gilroy Tennis Club

$126.90 Gilroy Youth Commission

$160.14 Girl Scout Troop #1455

$37.68 Girl Scout Troop #564

$602.88 Girl Scout Troop #707

$804.84 Glenview Home & School Club

$33.39 Greater Bay Area Make-A-Wish Foundation

$3,075.30 GUSD Scholarship Fund – SakaBozzo Scholarship

$66.40 GUSD-HR Staff Recognition

$800.18 Guys & Dolls Dance Group

$16,169.73 Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

$1,484.03 Hollister NJROTC – SBHS

$129.15 Intero Foundation

$4,016.25 Jubilee South Valley

$956.25 Knights of Columbus – Gilroy

$1,614.15 Knights of Columbus – Morgan Hill

$211.14 La Isla Pacifica

$68.24 Las Animas Parent Club

$62.25 Leadership Gilroy

$4,620.60 Lions Club of Gilroy

$1,415.50 Live Oak Adult Day Services

$8,724.30 Live Oak HS “Emerald Regime”

$546.21 Live Oak HS Football Team

$345.00 Los Altos Police Explorers Post 69

$329.70 Luigi Aprea School Parents Club

$149.40 MACSA – El Portal Leadership Academy

$571.05 NAPVA

$88.56 Native Daughters of the Golden West Parlor #312

$428.04 Ninety-Nines Inc – Gavilan Chapter

$1,101.92 Odyssey Theater Company

$1,086.98 Orchard Valley Soccer Arsenal/United

$8,852.33 Orchard Valley Soccer Pumas

$573.75 Orchard Valley Soccer Sting

$203.33 Pacific West Christian Academy

$65.21 Palma High School

$172.04 Palma HS Golf Team

$659.58 Palma Varsity Basketball

$811.72 Palma Varsity Football

$1,002.15 Philanthropic Education Organization

$1,512.90 Pine Ridge Assn

$92.33 Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation

$428.40 Presbyterian Cooperative Preschool

$321.20 Presbyterian First Church Hollister

$936.60 Puente Program

$2,958.08 Rainbow Assembly #125

$10,360.89 Rebekah Childrens Services

$132.80 Rucker School

$432.10 Salinas Rodeo Rotary

$295.38 San Benito HS Varsity Boys Baseball

$239.08 Scholarships for Veterans

$280.44 Second Harvest Food Bank

$3,002.40 So Santa Clara Co Fire District PCF

$163.77 Sobrato HS Associated Student Body

$285.60 Sobrato HS Field Hockey

$1,420.86 Sobrato HS Football

$2,513.28 Sobrato HS Spirit Team

$94.51 South Bay Elite Parent Club

$2,213.06 South County Baseball Boosters

$1,981.41 South Valley Civic Theater

$13,333.56 South Valley Community Church

$700.81 South Valley Community Church So. County Compassion Ctr

$1,879.99 South Valley Community Church Womens Ministries

$37.10 South Valley Community Church Youth Ministry

$2,381.19 South Valley JH Band

$74.90 South Valley JH Cheerleaders

$162.07 South Valley JH Parent Club

$66.42 South Valley JH Science

$697.79 South Valley JH Special Ed

$182.90 South Valley Youth Symphony

$4,918.80 St Joseph’s Family Center

$117.99 St Mary Church

$3,416 St Mary Parish Youth Group

$8,617.68 St Mary School

$184.50 St Stephens Episcopal Church

$2,134.44 Theater Angels Art League

$712.17 United Methodist Church of Gilroy

$7,378.49 Victory Outreach

$1,116.90 Vineyard Christian Preschool

$1,090.50 Xtreme Baseball

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