Calamari disaster averted; crowds on track for G-Fest record

Danny Pires of San Jose sprays his 4 year-old nephew Jayson

Tens of thousands of hungry people may have never known what was
panicking organizers of the 33rd annual Gilroy Garlic Festival
Sunday afternoon at Christmas Hill Park – but everyone is happy a
calamari shortage was averted.
View more photos of the 2011 Gilroy Garlic Festival at our
—-

Tens of thousands of hungry people may have never known what was panicking organizers of the 33rd annual Gilroy Garlic Festival Sunday afternoon at Christmas Hill Park – but everyone is happy a calamari shortage was averted.

“In Gourmet Alley, we reached ‘critical stage’ calamari,” Garlic Festival President Kurt Svardal said Sunday. Around 11 a.m. fear began to rattle through the Alley that customers might be at sea over the missing – and essential – food group. Svardal dreaded that, “there was no calamari within 300 miles of Gilroy,” he said.

“Calamari has been cleaned out as far as the eye can see,” festival media director Peter Ciccarelli added around 2 p.m.

But alas, it was located around 3:30 p.m. at two warehouses in Morgan Hill and San Jose and trucked in without Alley cooks missing a beat. One-thousand extra pounds of calamari was ordered. No Garlic Festival visitors would leave hungry.

Some were concerned the famous flame-ups by pyro-chefs would be disrupted without calamari, though worries fizzled as the chefs took to their row for all to “ooh” and “ahh” over the great balls of fire.

“We’re scrambling, but we’re not letting anyone go home hungry,” said Vito Mercado, co-chairman of Gourmet Alley, who has volunteered for eight years. “I just keep looking out the (booth) window and seeing all the lines,” he said.

With the calamari situation under control, Svardal could smile about the fact the three-day festival was turning out to be the most successful and most popular to date.

“Because we’re running out (of food) that’s a good indication it’s been a good year for us,” Svardal said. The attendance last year was estimated around 100,000 and with cooler-than-normal temperatures – “the weather has been cooperative,” Executive Director Brian Bowe said – organizers say they’re on track to beat 2010 numbers.

Svardal took a ride in the California Highway Patrol helicopter Saturday afternoon, and looking down on the mass of people gave him a indication about this year’s attendance, which, on a good day is 60,000.

“(CHP) said it was the thickest (crowd) they’ve ever seen,” Svardal said.

Revenue was looking good too, Bowe said. As of 5 p.m. Saturday night, more than 24,000 online tickets had been sold. Last year, 8,000 were sold online. On Friday’s “Locals Day” – when festival-goers got a $5 ticket discount – 2,919 tickets were sold, compared with 2,000 last year. In 2010, the festival brought in $1.84 million total in ticket sales (online, at grocery stores and at the door). This year, Bowe is hoping for $2 million, with possibly an additional $500,000 once sponsorship funding is factored in.

Twice as many combo plates have been sold this year than last, Bowe said. This is the first year visitors has the option to buy a combo plate ticket online, sending lines at least 100 people deep Sunday, for the second day in a row.

On the park side, at separate booths to buy garlic fries and garlic ice cream, a pair of popular food stops all three days, lines were more than 100 people deep, reaching to the arts and crafts area. And at the beer tent, souvenir tin beer mugs sold out by 3 p.m.

Check back tonight for an updated attendance count and coverage of the final day at the 33rd Gilroy Garlic Festival.

Leave your comments