Gilroy reaches out to 20 million tourists

Gilroy Gardens 3

Gilroy might want to brace for an onslaught of circus goers. Circus trees, that is.

The city’s unique arboreal attraction, huge and intricately grafted trees, is getting a online plug that could reach 20 million potential visitors.
It’s happening at the same time that tens of thousands of passengers on two major airlines are being pitched to pack an overnight bag and head to the self-dubbed Garlic Capital of the World.
And the monster water park resort courting Gilroy isn’t even close to slip-sliding away.
So, wassssup?
Tourism and attendance is what’s up, at least if the folks at the Gilroy Welcome Center and the Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park have their way.
The Welcome Center, Gilroy’s nonprofit tourism and promotion group, was offered a great deal on remnant time and bought slots on airline screens to show 90-second, Gilroy-made videos in May, June and July, according to executive director Jane Howard.
The showing of the videos on 17,000 United and Virgin America flights will cost the center about $10,000, but that is a great deal because the normal price is $49,000, Howard said.
The spots can be seen at this Internet link:
They feature greater Gilroy’s top attractions and treasures, from wineries and the quaint downtown to the outlet shopping malls and the sprawling, botanically themed family park on Hecker Pass Highway.
And for the entire week of April 24, the theme park’s Circus Trees attraction will be featured as one of the state’s Hidden Gems on the Visit California website, which gets about 20 million visits a year.
That spot is already on the website site and will be for a long time, but it will be featured for one month.
Visit California is a non-profit organization that develops marketing programs that promote the state as a premier destination, according to its website,
Visitors spent more than $122 billion in 2015 in California, supporting jobs for more than one million Californians and generating $9.9 billion in tax revenues, according to the group.
It’s Hidden Gems campaign is new and part of a marketing strategy to showcase the state’s abundance and diversity, according the organization.
“While the series focuses on just a few hidden gems, the content will be featured on Dream365TV, YouTube and to continue to inspire audiences,” according to the organization.
The so-called Hidden Gems represent each of the state’s eight tourist regions.
The Circus Trees won out over other applicants for the honor to represent the Central Coast region, including from Monterey and Santa Cruz counties, according to Barb Granter, Vice President and General Manager of the theme park.
“It’s incredible, we’re very excited,” she said, adding it’s the first time the amazing trees have been featured in such a promotion since the park opened in 2001.
The video spot, made a no cost to the city-owned park, tells the trees’ story from near obscurity to world fame. It was shot last year by a team from Time, Inc., according to Granter, who appears in the piece.
But what also has everyone particularly excited is the two other folks in the spot.
One is Michael Bonfante, the visionary former Nob Hill supermarket chain owner and tree expert who spent nearly two decades building the park before selling it to the city for about $12 million to pay off investors.
The other is Wilma Erlandson, the daughter and only child of Axel Erlandson. He was Swedish-born American farmer who shaped, grafted and created the other-worldly trees, first in Minnesota then in Scotts Valley in Santa Cruz County.
After Erlandson’s death in 1964 at the age of 79, the trees languished until Bonfante, a nationally-recognized expert in the moving of giant, specimen trees, brought them to his new park in Gilroy, a living homage on an enormous scale to the wonders of trees and all things botanical.
Ms. Erlandson is a regular visitor to the park where she signs copies of a book about her father and the trees, according to Granter.
“We’re very pleased that she is included” in the Hidden Gems video, she said.
The Welcome Center has run airline spots once before, Howard said. And it’s not the first time Gilroy’s wonders have been promoted by Visit California.
The city has appeared or appears in Visit California marketing publications, including the 2016 California Visitor Guide and 2015-16 Road Trips Guide.
It also is showcased in the organization’s website content, according to the group, including California Attractions for Younger Kids, Gilroy Premium Outlets and Gilroy Garlic Festival.