A whiff of competition for Garlic City

Fresno serves up first annual garlic festival

Is there room in the garlic game for two California cities? Fresno is coming after Gilroy’s garlic crown.

Gilroy’s official city motto is “The City with the Spice for Life” and it proudly proclaims itself  “Garlic Capital of the World,” but there’s another city now claiming ownership of the cloves.

On May 28, the city of Fresno hosted its first-ever Garlic Festival, and is calling itself “the true Garlic Capital of the United States.”

“Attention Garlic Lovers!  Are you ready for Fresno’s own Garlic Festival?” the California Fresh Farmers Market Association boasts on the event’s Facebook page. “Join the California Fresh Farmers Market Association for the inaugural and soon-to-be annual Fresno Garlic Festival!!  Enjoy an evening celebrating the world’s most addictive spice—garlic!”

“be a part of history— our taking back the crown as the ‘garlic capital of the United States! Fresno IS the true garlic capital of the United States—not Gilroy. Fresno County grows many times more garlic than any other county in the United States. It’s a fact!”

Gilroy has branded itself on the special spice, hosting the three-day Garlic Festival in late July for the last 40 years.

Peter De Young, executive director of the California Fresh Farmers Market Association and the founder of the Fresno Garlic Festival, promises the Fresno festival is not meant to rival Gilroy’s historic garlic weekend.

De Young believes there’s enough of a garlic craving to support two festivals in the state. He said he’s been a fan of the Gilroy festival and wants to bring the same energy to the residents of Fresno.

“We’re not looking to step on anyone’s toes,” said De Young. “We’re not looking to belittle Gilroy.”

The Gilroy Garlic Festival has been designated the World’s Largest Garlic Festival in the Guinness Book of World Records. Bryan Bowe, director of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, said last year’s attendance was 80,000.

Bowe shared De Young’s sentiment, that there is enough garlic love to go around. “I think the more communities that are celebrating garlic, the better. I’m glad that Fresno is spicing things up,” said Bowe.

Ken Christopher, executive vice president of Christopher Ranch, didn’t mince words when defending Gilroy’s standing as the Garlic City. Christopher Ranch processes and ships 100 million pounds of garlic annually.

“Christopher Ranch is the country’s largest garlic grower,” said Christopher. “At any given time, Gilroy, California is home to the North American continent’s largest home for garlic.” He said he wished the Fresh Farmers Market Association had reached out to Christopher Ranch to do cross marketing and hoped that Fresno would in the future if its festival continues.

In an interview, Christopher said Fresno’s festival is “cute, but it’s not necessarily close to anything we’re doing.”

De Young said Fresno didn’t want to cause a stink with its new festival.

“We’re just looking to create our own event and our own sale,” said De Young.”I think there’s plenty of garlic eaters to sustain two garlic festivals, if not more, later down the road.”

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