Garlic Fest distributes $270K to volunteers

Gilroy Garlic Festival President Greg Bozzo does a flame up July

Despite a down economy and about 10,000 fewer visitors than last
year, the 2010 Gilroy Garlic Festival will inject $270,000 back
into the community, a 12.5 percent increase from 2009.
– PHOTOS: The 2010 Gilroy Garlic Festival in pictures
– 2010 Garlic Festival recap
Despite a down economy and about 10,000 fewer visitors than last year, the 2010 Gilroy Garlic Festival will inject $270,000 back into the community, a 12.5 percent increase from 2009.

The Garlic Festival Association plans to mail checks to 168 participating nonprofits today or Wednesday, said Brian Bowe, the association’s executive director.

Fueled by the efforts of 4,000 volunteers, the three-day Gilroy Garlic Festival celebrated its 32nd year in July. Since its inception, the Festival has donated $8,795,322 to local charities. This year’s top five beneficiaries are: the South Valley Community Church, Gilroy High School Choir, Orchard Valley Soccer Pumas, Christopher High School football program and Live Oak Emerald Regime.

“I wanted to be No. 1,” joked GHS Choir Director Phil Robb when he heard the news. “This was supposed to be the year I was gonna do it.”

Although Robb will have to wait until next year for another crack at the top spot, the $11,810 check he’ll receive within the next few days will put a significant dent in his choirs’ travel expenses for their trip to Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava in April. The volunteer-generated dollars will also help send the girls concerto choir to Southern California later this year.

According to Robb’s calculations, this year’s Garlic Festival check puts the choir’s volunteer earnings at more than $100,000 since he and his students started volunteering more than 20 years ago.

“It’s always great news,” he said. “We’re very grateful for everything.”

From sports teams to individual school parent clubs, Gilroy Unified School District programs will receive more than $85,000 for its volunteer hours. But considering many nonprofits also run vendor booths, Bowe guessed that the nonprofits make at least as much from their own sales as what they earn for their volunteer hours in stations such as Gourmet Alley, garbage collection and parking lot supervision.

Many volunteers are so dedicated, they work 10-hour days without a word of complaint and never stray far from their work stations, Bowe said.

“Some of these volunteers are so focused on their job at the Festival that if you walk them around the event, it’s like Disneyland for them,” Bowe said.

After 30 years of volunteering at the same stations, community members have established deep ties at the Festival, said Greg Bozzo, president of this year’s Garlic Festival.

“Generations of families and friends form this camaraderie and these relationships,” Bozzo said.

Their institutional knowledge and “local know-how” is what keeps the Festival growing every year, organizers said.

Bozzo likes to call it “festival magic.”

“That’s one of the things that’s so unique to our Festival,” he said.

This year, Bozzo and Kurt Svardal, next year’s Festival president, plan to convene a committee of past presidents to consider how to spend $100,000 in corporate sponsorships on top of what it plans to distribute to volunteer organizations.

“We’re really trying to reach out to some of the folks who have put in the time to get that money,” Bozzo said.

In past years, the Festival has funded almost $2 million in community capital improvements, including $1 million in improvements at Christmas Hill Park and $250,000 toward the construction of the Gilroy High School Student Center. The Festival has also donated $200,000 to create fully-endowed college scholarship programs.

More than 97,000 visitors attended this year’s Garlic Festival, down by about 10,000 when compared to 2009. Organizers blamed the bad economy, as well as an increase in ticket prices.

“For 2009, the economy was bad, but it was bad at that point for a shorter amount of time,” Bowe said. “I think another year of a down economy did catch up with us.”

But even though the overall number of visitors was down, those that did come spent more money on tickets and other purchases than the previous year.

“The good news was that there were still almost 98,000 people there, we had a great crowd and a great event,” Bowe said. “I heard more this year than in a while now just how much people really enjoyed the Garlic Festival.”

The 33rd Annual Gilroy Garlic Festival will take place July 29 – 31, 2011.

– PHOTOS: The 2010 Gilroy Garlic Festival in pictures

– 2010 Garlic Festival recap

2010 Garlic Festival donations. Click on arrow to download.

var docstoc_docid=”57713747″;var docstoc_title=”2010 Garlic Festival donations”;var docstoc_urltitle=”2010 Garlic Festival donations”;

2010 Garlic Festival donations

Leave your comments