Garlic Fest 14: Grand garlic finales on day three

Brian Gleser, owner of Harmony Masterpieces Tie-Dyes, changes his banner to his new flame up with garlic, that he created only a week before the festival, during the 2014 Gilroy Garlic Festival.

Sunday’s Gilroy Garlic Festival President Vito Mercado extinguished the  bulb with a final audience cool-off outside the mist tents, drawing a close to a Sunday chock-full of garlicky action.
Inasmuch as Saturday’s sweltering weather beckoned 36th Annual Gilroy Garlic Festival-goers to water, lemonade, iced tea and smoothy booths, Sunday’s just did about the same on the the third and final day during a festival that drew thousands from around the country to the Garlic Capital of the world.
It was a day of garlic festivity from the flame-ups at Garlic Cook-off Theater, staple lines at Gourmet Alley with the grand finale, the Garlic Cook-Off led by masters of ceremonies Sam and Greg Bozzo and master of ceremonies, ABC “The Chew” co-host, author and chef Carla Hall.
“It actually strengthens the community” Hall said of her return to Garlic Festival 2014 during a book signing, “when I found that out, it was that much easier to come back.”
Gilroy High School’s Andy Garcia and Christopher High School student Alea Furushiro stood outside in close proximity to a handheld mister, dodging crowds as part of Be the Match National Bone Marrow Program team. The Rotary Interact Club members joined the more than 4,000 volunteers  working each year on behalf of more than 160 nonprofit groups in Gilroy and surrounding communities.
“This is a good cause, a way to give back to the community,” Garcia said.
Entertainment at the various stages added to the mix. At the Gazebo, Nashville-based country music performer Hannah May Allison wailed songs from her new EP “The Best Thing.” Home for the holidays to visit family in Palo Alto, it was Allison’s first time at the garlic Festival. Allison wandered off to try some of the garlic offerings at this year’s festival. What was she out for?
“Garlic ice cream,” Allison said.
Dan Palmer donned a cap complete with Gilroy Garlic Festival pins dating back to the 1982. Palmer has made it a tradition for his Gilroy family to attend.
“I like people watching,” Palmer said. “It’s also a family-friendly event.”
Outside festival grounds, bicycle tent volunteers from South Valley Community Church and Incarnate Faith ushered in cyclists they said traveled from as far away as Morgan Hill. Sunday just happened to be a busy day for the volunteers, according to Nicole Vance.
“We try and keep a smile so that people get a piece of kindness every day as they enter the festival,” Vance said.
At the mercantile tent, inventory manager and longtime Garlic Festival volunteer Valerie Kelly said a steady flow of customers interested in garlic products and goods kept them busy. Judy Pelton of Cotati was one of those people. Pelton doubled-up on two three-foot long garlic braids.
“It’s all about the garlic,” Pelton said.
David Pan of San Francisco brought several friends out. He was waiting in line purchasing chocolate garlic ice cream.
“Rain tent,” Pan said of the day’s highlight. “How hot is it?”
Modesto resident Brad Buenger made a mini-vacation of a concert at Mountain View’s Shoreline Ampitheatre: Journey, Steve Miller Band and Tower of Power. Just a short distance away, garlic-capped members of the Central Coast Saxaphone Quartet continued their tradition of playing a few tunes for the crowd.
“It’s awesome—I’ll come back” Buenger said.
Hot spots: Gourmet Alley staples were in full swing teeming with hungry people seeking combo plates, pasta con pesto, stuffed and marinated mushrooms, pepper steak sandos and more. Shade-seekers clustered in tight packs under the mist tents, and momentum was permaflow at the Gilroy Rotary Club wine tent for Santa Clara County wine tasters. Refreshment booths like Gilroy Gators Swim Team’s flavored iced tea offerings remained busy under the hot temps.
Festival highlights: Garlic Showdown standout Jason Gronlund took home top honors three years in a row now during an Iron Chef-style garlic showdown where top chefs face a timed challenge to create two dishes using include secret ingredients beets and canned corn. Hall hosted the event. Gronlund wowed judges with his rack of lamb with cole slaw and garlic caviar ceviche. Hall also held a book signing following the cooking event after the sound of a cheering crowd during a filming.
—Be sure to check back for festival statistics, numbers and more.