On April 21, the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association (GGFA) released a statement that the Garlic Festival was postponed indefinitely due to prohibitive insurance required by the City of Gilroy.
We stand by that statement. Some of the talk online against the city and council is speculative, incorrect, divisive and should stop. We agree with the mayor, when she says, the City of Gilroy is all of us. Some news reports and discussions around town have been incorrect: The Garlic Festival has not closed forever. Even as a 2022 event has been canceled, we are looking for possibilities in 2023.
Make no mistake, the tragedy of 2019 is precisely why we are in this predicament. The board of directors has made public the challenges associated with bussing and housing developments. However, decades of GGFA volunteers have worked hard to preserve finances to be positioned well in challenging times. Our association does not wish to be subsidized by the City of Gilroy.
The GGFA has worked hard to reduce expenses to benefit local charities. This can’t be done without the help of donors, landowners and agencies such as Gilroy Unified School District and Gavilan College. At the 2019 festival, our association, GUSD, a private bus company and local farmers formed a plan and cut over $100,000 in expenses from previous years.
When chaos erupted on the evening of July 28, 2019, it was Gilroy bus drivers who turned back and drove toward a very tense situation to help evacuate guests. In addition, GUSD has allowed use of its kitchens for decades. Anyone who suggests that GUSD does not participate in the success of the Garlic Festival is wrong.
The pandemic canceled a 2020 event. By fall of the same year we signed an agreement with the Gilroy Gardens administration to hold a 2021 event in their lower grounds. That agreement was then halted by the Gilroy Gardens Board. Gilroy Gardens never put a price tag on holding an event there. Their only requirement was to meet City of Gilroy insurance requirements. Since then, the Gilroy Gardens administration and board have stopped all negotiations with the GGFA.
When we found ourselves without a site, we turned to Gavilan College. At Gavilan we found a culture of transparency and a willingness to help from staff, administration and the Board of Trustees. Insurance costs were not prohibitive at all. The GGFA decided against Gavilan because the land offered could not meet our needs.
The GGFA has been committed to the citizens and especially to the City of Gilroy for over 40 years. The $12 million-plus in contributions does not include money raised by others. The Chamber of Commerce, Gilroy Foundation, Rotary, Gavilan Football, El Roble, etc., have raised millions more. Years ago, there was an economic impact report on the benefits of the Garlic Festival. When considering shopping, gas, hotels, restaurants, sales tax, etc., the impact was $6 million!
GGFA has also made sure many of its givings would be so everyone could benefit. Below are some.
Christmas Hill Park:
• 1990s: $400,000 to City of Gilroy to speed up the development of the west side of the park.
• 2009: $42,000 for synthetic grass near the playground.
• 2011: $225,000 in co-sponsor matching funds with Christopher Ranch/Family to rebuild Amphitheater
• 2014: $225,000 to rebuild Mulberry Picnic area.
• 2018: $150,000 for asphalt road to Solorsano School area.
• 2007: $200,000 contribution for Gilroy High Cafeteria.
Our association respects the challenges of operating a city. While some there believe the costs connected to finding a creative solution to a festival rebirth are too high, we believe that the costs not to do so are even higher.
Greg Bozzo wrote this column on behalf of the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association Board of Directors, Jeff Speno, Trevor Van Laar, Cindy Fellows, Mike Wanzong, Brad Royston, Paul Nadeau and Tom Cline.