Garlic Fest atwitter with online buzz

Garlic Fest atwitter with online buzz

When the inaugural Gilroy Garlic Festival kicked off in 1979,
its primary form of technological social outreach was KFAT
– a renegade radio station run by beatnik, blue-collar

misfits, rejects, ne-‘er-do-wells

and a couple anarchists,

according to former DJ Gilbert Klein.
When the inaugural Gilroy Garlic Festival kicked off in 1979, its primary form of technological social outreach was KFAT – a renegade radio station run by beatnik, blue-collar “misfits, rejects, ne-‘er-do-wells” and a couple anarchists, according to former DJ Gilbert Klein.

It’s amazing how communication has evolved in 33 years.

G-fest 2011 pushed its own threshold of social networking this year on Facebook with more than 2,000 wall posts, 7,800 visitors and more than 15,000 “likes.” That’s alongside “hundreds” of tweets, mentions and re-tweets – enough to garner the Gilroy Garlic Festival a top Twitter trend July 30 according to Brian Bowe, the event’s full-time executive director.

When something is “trending” on Twitter it indicates a particular subject is a recurring buzz topic for a specific region. In this case, G-fest was trending in the Bay Area, Bowe said.

“Let’s face it, Twitter is a world-wide outlet, and little old Gilroy is actually getting buzz,” he said Tuesday. “That’s pretty cool.”

One of his favorite tweets posted by an attendee read, “I’m going to be burping garlic all week.”

“I get a kick out of scrolling through various mentions,” said Bowe. “It’s so off the wall, so frank, so fresh. From the ridiculous to the sublime, it’s fun to see.”

Bowe added a “very high” percentage of the comments have been positive and encouraging.

And it’s not just visitors who juggled tweeting, eating and imbibing during G-fest.

The Gilroy Garlic Festival Association is on its giga-game, thanks to Social Media Manager Lauren Bevilacqua. Tweeting under username “GilroyGarlicFes,” she kept the festival’s 403 followers in the know with by-the-minute details, upcoming entertainment and contest winners. Other hometown groups on the chirping bandwagon included the Gilroy Visitor’s Bureau and several reporters from the Gilroy Dispatch who tweeted about 40 times a day, often with photos from the festival.

Celebrity guest chef Angelo Sosa also made some digital shoutouts to his garlicky host town. The lanky New Yorker found time to tweet between catching a 4:30 a.m. East Cost fight and entertaining a crowd during his live cooking demonstration July 30.

Albeit, G-Fest’s Twitter follower count of 403 isn’t tantamount to, say, Lady Gaga’s millions. But as Bowe underscored, it’s more about the viral domino effect.

“Attendees tweet, their followers see it, it gets out there and grows exponentially,” he pointed out. “It’s so powerful and works so well.”

No matter what new-fangled, networking fads the future brings, he confirmed there’s no question social media will be a key component in propelling the festival to new heights in public relations.

Five years ago, Bowe added in retrospect, who would have thought Twitter and Facebook would become so ancillary to marketing and promotions?

“There’s still so much about G-fest that is steeped in tradition, but we also have to keep it fresh and current,” he said. “It’s that careful blend that helps keep us successful.”

Speaking of the future: Say you’re at the festival next year, and find yourself without a program because you used it to wipe your buttery scampi fingers, and you need to know, when is JJ Hawg playing in the amphitheater? Or, where is the nearest children’s changing station? Or, how much do those sinewy kangaroo kabobs cost from the Louisiana Cajun lady?

There’s an app for that.

At least, there will be next year. Bowe guarantees it.

In fact, “we were already working on that this year behind the scenes,” he said. “But when you’re juggling so many things, at a certain point you have to decide what takes precedence over what.”

Volunteers actually came close to developing an app by G-fest 2011, he said, but ran out of daylight.

An app for iPhone and Android cell phones, however, is on the menu for G-fest 2012. The new function will likely include the festival’s official program, in addition to social media updates alerting festivalgoers “of cool things,” Bowe said. “It will really enhance the experience of attendees for next year.”

Reflecting on how Gilroy’s aromatic extravaganza has evolved in just three years, Bowe remembers when 2009 president Kirsten Carr insisted on starting a Facebook page.

“I’ll never forget how excited she was when we hit 100 friends,” he laughed.

Alongside Bevilacqua, Carr racked up a lion’s share of festival updates via Twitter July 29-31. She admitted to a “geeky” enthusiasm for the event’s once-fledgling Facebook page.

“I would check it daily,” she said.

When the festival’s Facebook hit its centenary friend mark in 2009, Carr called the office and yelled, “we’re at 100!'”

Three years ago, she remembers a handful of Gilroyans weren’t exactly twitterpated by the social media brouhaha.

But she stuck to her guns, asserting Facebook was a wave of the future, and G-Fest needed to hop on.

It speaks to the festival’s tried-and-true protocol for ushering in a new president annually; a practice 2011 President Kurt Svardal says keep the perspective fresh and brings new ideas to the table.

“Some people just didn’t understand why it was such a big deal,” Carr said. “I was like a little Facebook cheerleader with pompoms.”

G-Fest Tweets we love

– “‘they have good alcohol here'” – some guy. Like what? Bud light?”

– “im saving my money for this weeknd. and not for clothes… for food. how sad.”

– “Most people with the worst breath in the country right now (including me)”

– “On our way to the Gilroy Garlic Festival. it’s gonna be a good day…Eat, Stink n be Merry.”

– “Found him. Inflatable garlic man.”

– “My favorite treats at the Gilroy Garlic Festival are garlic corn on the cob and garlic kettle corn. I must be corny.”

Comments not edited for grammar.

The numbers: G-Fest goes viral

– Number of Facebook likes: 15,465

– Number of Facebook page visits in week leading up to festival: 2,000

– Number of Facebook wall posts in week leading up to festival: 7,800

– Number of Twitter followers: 403

– Number of G-Fest-related Tweets during the festival’s weekend: “Hundreds,” according to G-Fest Executive Director Brian Bowe.

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