garlic festival drive thru gilroy presbyterian church 2021
The Gilroy Garlic Festival returned for its 41st edition with a drive-thru Gourmet Alley experience at Gilroy Presbyterian Church on July 24, 2021. The festival featured fan favorites such as garlic fries. Photo: Juan Reyes
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Gilroy Garlic Festival organizers were taken off guard Sunday, when an event promoter in San Joaquin County announced that it would host the city’s much-beloved gathering in 2022.

The Tony Noceti Group, which puts on events such as the San Joaquin Asparagus Festival and races at the Stockton Dirt Track, announced in the early morning over Facebook that it will be putting on a garlic festival, with more details to come soon.

“We heard the extremely sad news that the Gilroy Garlic Festival will not be holding their annual big Garlic Festival,” the post read. “We just couldn’t let that happen.”

In a statement, the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association Board of Directors said it has not been contacted by the Noceti Group.

“It is not a sanctioned Gilroy Garlic Festival Association event,” the board stated. “Stockton is not the successor of our community’s homecoming event to support our essential non-profits here in Gilroy, the Garlic Capital of the World. The board is happy to see the enthusiasm the Noceti Group has for garlic, but asks that they communicate directly with the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association with those ideas.”

The Gilroy Garlic Festival Association announced April 21 that it would no longer host a “massive” event, citing financial issues and insurance requirements. Instead, the festival plans on holding a series of smaller events throughout the year, including a golf tournament, concert and dinner.

The news that the festival would not return in its traditional format after more than four decades was quickly picked up by national media outlets, and Ken Christopher, executive vice president of Christopher Ranch and the grandson of festival co-founder Don Christopher, suggested the Noceti Group was trying to use that publicity to its advantage.

“It looks like the Noceti group, at best, is ignorantly trying to use a news cycle to promote a future Stockton-based garlic event, and at worst, is using the national press surrounding my grandfather’s and my hometown’s legacy to self-promote,” he said.

Christopher said headlines proclaiming that the Gilroy Garlic Festival is “back” are false.

“If the Noceti Group is earnestly trying to have a garlic promotion in their hometown, god bless them,” he said. “But claiming to bring back the Gilroy Garlic Festival, without comment or cooperation from our association, board, president or Christopher Ranch is malicious. Our community has been through enough, and doesn’t need misinformation from those that aren’t affiliated with our annual homecoming.”

Tony Noceti, CEO of the Noceti Group, had not returned a call for comment as of Monday morning. However, in a Monday post on Facebook, the group responded to Christopher’s comments, saying there has been “some confusion about the intentions or plans that may be underway regarding the garlic festival.”

“Noceti Group, Inc. is a family-owned business that is committed to providing safe, family fun entertainment across California,” the statement read. “When the historic Stockton Asparagus Festival announced its closing, our family saw an opportunity to keep this important community event alive and the San Joaquin Asparagus Festival was the end result. Our announcement about the closing of the Gilroy Garlic Festival was a similar disheartening announcement. We are exploring all options and opportunities to keep these types of community events alive whenever possible.”

Should Noceti Group’s event come to fruition, it will add another garlic-themed festival to the state in 2022. The National Garlic Festival, put on by National Food Festivals, Inc., will run May 13-15 at the Fresno Fairgrounds.

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Erik Chalhoub joined Weeklys as an editor in 2019. Prior to his current position, Chalhoub worked at The Pajaronian in Watsonville for seven years, serving as managing editor from 2014-2019.


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