– Gilroy is gearing up for its time in the limelight as more
than 4,000 local volunteers and businesses prepare to host the 25th
anniversary celebration of garlic glory.
At Christmas Hill Park the hammering has started and the tents
are being raised as Garlic Festival volunteers transform it into a
garlic haven that will entertain more than 125,000 visitors in
GILROY – Gilroy is gearing up for its time in the limelight as more than 4,000 local volunteers and businesses prepare to host the 25th anniversary celebration of garlic glory.
At Christmas Hill Park the hammering has started and the tents are being raised as Garlic Festival volunteers transform it into a garlic haven that will entertain more than 125,000 visitors in three days.
Since early Monday morning, Livermore-based company Special Events along with the Gilroy nonprofit Victory Outreach were helping to set up tents.
“We have 19 people right now, and we will be here all week,” said Erich Hundsberger, a member of Victory Outreach.
Other Victory Outreach members were helping to set up the fencing that will surround Gourmet Alley while others were busy doling out trash cans.
The group plans on using the fund-raising money it earns this week to help with purchasing a new church on Sixth and Hanna streets in Gilroy. Nonprofit organizations like Victory Outreach receive a portion of the profits generated from the festival. The amount of hours worked determines how much money each group earns.
More than 16 Special Events employees were busy setting up 107 canopies and 150 booths throughout the festival grounds along with a new 25th anniversary tent this year, located behind the cook-off stage.
“This is one of the largest festivals we work at,” said Archille Cuyle, sales manager for Special Events.
Bill Hart, 78, a member of the Gilroy Lions Club, was volunteering his time throughout the week by helping with the foundations of Gourmet Alley.
“The Lions help to setup the water heaters and faucets along with laying down the pipes for the sewer systems and sinks,” Hart said.
The Lions Club donates some of its volunteer profits to charitable causes within the community, he said.
“We buy glasses and hearing aids for people, who cannot afford them,” Hart said.
Also lending a hand at Gourmet Alley were some Gilroy firefighters.
They were helping to construct the roofs while volunteers from Suburban Propane, of Gilroy, were setting up the propane they donate to fire up the grills.
Throughout the grassy areas Gilroy and Morgan Hill, Orchard Valley Soccer teams were unloading picnic tables. Twenty-two soccer players were rotating shifts bringing the tables from local schools to the park.
“These kids have been working so hard,” said Sandra Nova, a mother of one of the soccer players.
Off in the distance, a big dust cloud was accumulating in the parking lot as festival Parking Chair Bob Gutierrez instructed his volunteers on how to set up the barrels and cut the lines that will guide drivers into their parking spots.
“I have 15 community groups that are working more than 500 hours this week and 800 this weekend,” Gutierrez said as he proudly wore his Got Dust? Garlic Festival T-shirt.
There was a concern earlier in the month that there were fewer volunteers for the parking lot this year, but Gutierrez said the problem was solved, and they are now fully prepared. Members of South Valley Community Church and local Boy Scout troops were just a few of the volunteers working in the dirt all week.
A couple of blocks away at Antonio Del Bono School, something smelled a little fishy as the Gilroy High School Chamber Singers’ “squid squad” was busy washing buckets and then filling them with frozen calamari.
“It’s a lot of work, but it’s all worth it in the end when we get money to go on our annual trips,” 17-year-old Sabrina Rabizu said.
GHS Choir Director Phillip Robb said this year the singers will be volunteering extra hours at Gourmet Alley and at two additional Pepsi booths.
Businesses throughout the community also have begun to prepare for the weekend’s large crowds, like Bonfante Gardens, which is fully staffed the entire weekend. Everyone who buys a ticket to the Garlic Festival will receive a $10 off coupon for the general admission price of $29.95. Additional coupons will be available at the Bonfante booth located on the ranch side of Christmas Hill Park, Bonfante spokeswoman Nicole Koebrich said.
If stragglers are still looking for a place to stay, it’s going to be difficult to find an empty bed, because nearly all of the hotels in Gilroy and Morgan Hill are booked. Holiday Inn Express Hotel and Suites sold out three weeks ago, said Christina Garcia, a receptionist at the hotel.
Leavesley Inn in Gilroy is also full, and they have had to turn away between 10 to 15 callers inquiring about availability during each eight-hour shift.
The media has begun to take notice early, and already the BBC in Great Britain, Associated Press and NBC News in New York and radio stations In Nova Scotia, Berlin, Germany and Perth have booked interviews with festival committee members, said festival Publicity Chairman Peter Ciccarelli. Garlic Queen Melissa Noto also taped an interview promoting the festival aired today on the radio station KUFX, 98.5
Committee members and festival president Janie Mardesich say everything is running smoothly and that festival organizers are ahead of schedule, and according the National Weather Service, the weather will be in the high 80s to low 90s and sunny for the weekend. All of the volunteers will continue with preparations until the gates open on Friday. Then it’s show time, Mardesich said.
“It’s going to be a great time, and the 25th anniversary gives us even more reason to celebrate.”