2017 Fest was much bigger


Friday may have been Local’s Day at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, but that didn’t stop people from all over the country from celebrating the “stinking rose.” Sure it was hot and dusty, but the 39th Garlic Fest was another success, according to guests and promoters. The festival drew  102,667 customers this year a 20,000 rise over last year.
They came for celebrity chefs, cooking contests, food, drink and entertainment. And they traveled from all over the country.
“It’s like spicy and sweet, but it’s kinda good though,” said Allison Pfeffer,  of Hollister, as she and Kate Butler who is from Los Angeles, shared a scoop of garlic ice cream served in a halved cantaloupe. “I was forced to get it; my mom said I had to get it.”
For Butler, the Garlic Festival is a family tradition. It was Pfeffer’s first time, despite her local roots.
“We’ve been coming for 10 years,” Butler said. “I love eating all the food. The food is definitely the best part.”
Sal and Jane Espinoza waited underneath the wires of the zipline as their son Joe, 27, glided from the three-story tower to the ground. Despite being lifelong residents of Gilroy, this was their first Garlic Festival. Once they were there, though, they had their fill of everything garlic.
“We had the garlic wine, the garlic ice cream and the garlic bread,” Jane Espinoza said.
“It was pretty garlicky,” said Sal Espinoza in a guarded review of the garlic wine.
Some people just can’t get enough garlic, at the festival or at home. Two such garlic-heads were Daria Rosen, 57, of Fairfield and Amanda Mendoza, 36, from Hayward, both of whom had just bought three-foot braids of garlic of about 50 bulbs each from the Christopher Ranch booth.
“I’ve been coming since at least 1997,” said Rosen who originally started coming to the Garlic Festival as part of a work outing at Kaiser Permanente, but since then has built a tradition of attending the festival with Mendoza.
“She drafted us into going to the festival,” Mendoza said. “I’ve had the most fun coming here with Daria and the rest of the team at Kaiser.”
Besides friendship and fun, they really, really, love garlic.
“Depending on the recipe, one bulb,” Rosen said of her garlic heavy home cooking.
The festival is, after all, a food festival. From garlic fries to garlic shrimp to garlic ice cream and everything in between, it’s all about the garlic. Perhaps, nowhere is this truer than in Gourmet Alley, where Troy Garcia tended to almost two down garlic topped tri-tips roasting on a large grill which would later be sliced for the pepper steak sandwiches.
“I’d say we have a nice big hand full there,” said Garcia, who owns Heavy’s Grill on the Green at the Gilroy Golf Course.
Aside from the food, the Garlic Fest is billed as being the place for affordable family fun. Riley Black,4, laughed and giggled as she bounced at the Quad Bungee Jump on her birthday weekend and Noah Boyd, 5, who reared back and let loose a pitch at the Nathan Hot Dog inflatable pitching target. Zeroing in on a target from 10 feet away, Noah came close enough to win a free pair of sunglasses. Noah represented his mom Marcie’s Ohio roots, sporting a script Ohio T-shirt and a Cleveland Indians hat. It was the family’s first trip to the Garlic Fest.
“We’re from Columbus Ohio, but we live in Santa Clara now,” Marcie Boyd, 39, said. “The Garlic Festival started the year I was born, so I kinda see it as a right of passage. We eat a lot of garlic and it’s neat to see where it comes from.”
It wasn’t all visitors to Gilroy on Local’s Day. The Gilroy Garlic Festival Princesses were out and about representing their town.  Mary Mcclelland and Lindsey Bussing, both 18, posed for pictures on an Indian Motorcycle,  wearing their princess’ sashes, sunglasses and flower tiaras. For both, love for their hometown is what the Garlic Festival weekend is all about.
“I love how all the volunteers and the community come together to put on an amazing, worldwide event like the Garlic Festival,” Bussing said. “People have really come together to make it a happy home.”
“The community is definitely my favorite thing about the festival,” Mcclelland said. “All the work that comes into this really make it feel like home. It’s great to come from Gilroy California.”
It’s about family, food and of course fun. Talis and Wesley Faust, 13 and 12 respectively, of Pacifica braved one of the rock climbing walls operated by Mobile Rock on one side of Christmas Hill Park while Deborah Johnson cut a rug dancing at the Ford Motors dance-off on the other.
“They call me the James Brown Lady,” Johnson said.
The Festival also drew more problems than last year. Eleven people were arrested this year, versus none in 2016. Gilroy Police arrested two 17-year-old girls for fighting, escorted out 10 people for drunkenness or not following festival rules and arrested 11 others for drunkenness, refusing to follow police orders or interfering with police trying to do their duty.
 The cases were minor, according to Sgt. Jason Smith. For example, one man parked in a no parking space and refused to move. Another furnished an ID band to a minor, got kicked out of the park and had big black Xs drawn on his hands to prevent him from returning, but return he did.
Smith said the arrests were the result of more attendance this year.
“The Gilroy Police Department accomplished its mission by providing excellent public safety services in partnership with the community,” he said.  “Other than the fight involving the two juveniles, there were no reported assaults that occurred within the festival grounds during the weekend. The law enforcement presence at the festival helped ensure the event that was free of violence and safe for everyone to enjoy.”