Garlic Festival: Volunteers make it happen

Hal Thomas

They are in the trenches. Amid the garlic aroma, nearly 4,000 volunteers work to crank out every pepper steak sandwich to perfection, take every photo for visitors in front of the giant garlic bulb and answer questions on anything and everything Garlic Festival. The volunteers made it happen again this year. We tip our hat to you.

Clyde Kreeger; age: 74

Years volunteering: 14

Responsibility: Helping with utilities, including power, water and portable toilets.

Why I volunteer: Because I like the people of Gilroy and the Garlic Festival is so much fun.

Favorite memory: Many years ago, I remember there were two little boys that would crawl under the Cook-off stage and help pull power cables through to the other side. Now, they’re 18 years old!

Favorite festival food: Cherry vanilla ice cream.


Roxie Thomas; age: 81

Years volunteering: 30

Organization: Gourmet Alley for Gilroy Presbyterian Church

Why I volunteer: I just love the festival, and love what it represents. It’s a great way to support the church and interact with people.

Favorite memory: I served as an ambassador on the buses that were transporting people from the parking lots. Our job was to tell riders about the festival and its benefits. A family boarded the bus and said they just followed all the cars and decided to check it out. In my conversation with them I discovered they were headed to San Francisco for a 1:30 p.m. flight. I had to tell them they really did not have enough time to check out the festival and make their plane, so they stayed on and rode back to the parking lot. Upon getting off, the dad handed me a $20 tip! I was blown away. I think I donated it to Gilroy Presbyterian Church.


Nolan Getty; age: 12

Years volunteering: First time

Organization: Morgan Hill Boy Scouts Troop

Favorite thing about volunteering: It’s so cool to work in Gourmet Alley, because you get to see how the food is cooked. When you’re a pedestrian, you get to eat it but don’t get to go behind the scenes.

Favorite memory: Getting to take pictures with thousands of people while dressed as a garlic bulb. Some younger kids cry when they see us, but it makes most kids really happy.


Louise Shields; age: 51

Years volunteering: Two

Charity: Gilroy Arts Alliance

Favorite memory: Watching my daughter perform Taekwondo on the gazebo stage three years ago. It was so awesome to see those kids promoting sports and physical fitness. They did such a great job.”

Favorite garlic food: The garlic fries. I’m just about to have some for lunch today.

Favorite thing about the festival: I love how it brings the community together and raises so much to go back to charities. It is things like this that sustain a community.


Kristi Holder; age: 48

Years volunteering: 10

Charity: GHS’s Parent Club

What keeps you coming back: I love the community spirit, how everyone is here to give back.

Favorite garlic food: The pepper steak sandwich. But today I changed it up with a greek Gyro and a smoothie, and it was delicious.

Favorite memory: This weekend I’ve really loved learning about all the different ways people use garlic. Today a lady from Iran said she snips the greens off the top of her bulb and uses them for salads and cooking.


Lynn Liebschutz; age: 74

Number of years volunteering: 21

Responsibility: Volunteering with the Boy Scout Troop, working in Gourmet Alley and taking turns being “Herbie” in the children’s area.

Why I volunteer: The Garlic Festival is a tremendous organization. It’s like working with family when you’ve been here that long. The organization is second to none.

Favorite memory: Supervising the Boy Scout Troop in the Children’s Area.

Favorite festival food: Pepper Steak Sandwich, but I wouldn’t turn down anything from Gourmet Alley.


Hal Thomas; age: I’m as old as dirt…87

From: Pasadena

Number of years volunteering: Nine

Responsibility: Volunteering in Gourmet Alley for the Gilroy Presbyterian Church and Gilroy Rotary.

Why I volunteer: I like meeting all the people and running into the same people – the garlic bread division in particular.

Favorite memory: Meeting all of these great people. It’s so much fun.

Favorite festival food: Pepper Steak Sandwich


Don Gallego age: 33

Years volunteering: First time

Charity: Gilroy United Methodist Church

Favorite memory: Getting to eat rattlesnake meat. That was a once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing.

What do you love about the festival: The people. I love people watching. There are a lot of interesting characters out here. The music’s really good, too. I love how they have so many good bands and lots of live music.

Favorite garlic food: The garlic calamari. Definitely the calamari.


Steve Teraji; age: 49

Years volunteering: 10

Charity: Gilroy United Methodist Church

Favorite memory: The zipline – that’s pretty awesome that they brought that out here. I also love that I get to see the band “Five Minutes to Freedom.”

Favorite garlic food: The garlic fries. I like it simple. Those are a classic.

Favorite thing about the festival: I love the way it brings the community together. So many people in the community come out here along with people from all over the country. It’s really pretty amazing. We all come out here to enjoy the day, to have a good time, to support a good cause. It’s great.


Tess Brown; age: 12

Years volunteering: First time

Charity: Adams 4-H

Favorite Garlic Fest memory: Well so far, I like shopping at all the different vendors, seeing what they’re selling. I also like helping my 4-H group. I’m raising lambs for the Santa Clara County Fair.

Favorite garlic food: The garlic fries. They’re so good.

Favorite thing about the festival: I love that big metal garlic furnace that’s at the entrance. People stand in front of it and get their pictures taken. It’s pretty cool.


Denise Silberman (Tess’ mom); age: 45

Years volunteering: One

Charity: Adams 4-H

Favorite memory: I went to the very first Garlic Festival 34 years ago when it was off Highway 101 – a long, long time ago. I was selling garlic bread to raise money for my 4-H club, too. I was raising steers.


Brittanny Spencer; age: 20

From: Hawaii, going to UNLV now

Years volunteering: First time

Why I volunteer: I was supposed to push my grandma around the Festival in her wheelchair, but my Auntie Juana Kaanapu is head of security at Gourmet Alley and asked me to help her instead. I don’t mind it – it’s fun.

Favorite garlic food: Pepper steak sandwich, but I’m kind of a vegan right now. So I might have to stick to the garlic ice cream and garlic bread only.


John Russell; age: 61

Years volunteering: 13

Organization: South Valley Civic Theatre

Job: Taking photos of people in front of the giant garlic bulb

Why I volunteer: I like the whole deal. I come for the food, of course too. The corn with garlic butter is so good. I like everything. I support Gilroy – I’m part of Rally Round Downtown – it’s a great place to live.


Gina Lopez; age: 40

Years volunteering: Seven

Charity: Gilroy Gators Swim Team

Favorite memory: Listening to the music and dancing with my kids.

Favorite garlic food: The garlic mussels. Anything with seafood is good.

Favorite thing about the festival: I really love all the different people who come visit the festival, from the East Coast and even Europe. It really gets people around the world to know where Gilroy is.

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