Garlic Fest Joyful Spirit

Elections, the approaching holidays and the distinctive nip in
the air are a long way from Independence Day, summer vacations and
hot nights which characterize the days before the Garlic
Festival.
Elections, the approaching holidays and the distinctive nip in the air are a long way from Independence Day, summer vacations and hot nights which characterize the days before the Garlic Festival.

But we would be remiss as stewards of public comment if we did not speak to the record $300,000 in proceeds sent to 170 local nonprofit organizations just a week or so ago.

The first thing we have to say about that is this: Dick Nicholls would have been proud.

The former executive director died of cancer before the gates could open for the 27th annual festival, but the job done by his right-hand women, Joann Kessler and Chris Filice, along with the 2005 volunteer president, Jennifer Speno, speaks for itself. Remarkable.

Reflect for a moment on the power of the festival. There’s not a community-based festival in the country that we know about that has prospered like the Garlic Festival. Most implode due to greed and egos, which lead to organizational and management failures.

But in Gilroy, our signature event just keeps getting better. Besides providing cash sustenance for so many community organizations, it has provided community capital improvement money. The purchase of the ranch site addition to Christmas Hill Park and the new student center under construction at Gilroy High School were both funded in part by gifts from the festival. Truly, the festival is in many ways a community foundation that just keeps giving.

Think about it: $7,268,105 back to the community over its 27-year lifespan, and the event’s future looks bright as well.

The funny thing is that these measurable benefits don’t begin to speak to the good that emanates from the festival.

Teens who volunteer from a young age learn to give back to the community. Residents who raise their hands to volunteer – 4,000 or more annually – learn to work together for a common good. Leaders, who sacrifice time and lend talent, form a strong bond that works to protect and advance the festival.

That energy, that spirit, that camaraderie, that goodness is not quantifiable like attendance numbers or the number of pepper steak sandwiches sold. But it’s not elusive either.

The spirit of the great Gilroy Garlic Festival exists

year-round. It’s the same spirit that prompts people to serve food at the Lord’s Table or volunteer to help run the school raffle or pitch in to make sure hurricane victims who come to Gilroy are welcome and ready to start a new life.

So, thanks Garlic Festival for the good times, the friendships, the opportunities and the spirit that envelopes our town and makes this such a special place to live.

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