The third time was definitely a charm for proud Gilroy native Kiley Kuwada, who is already enjoying the special moments since being crowned the Garlic Queen of the 41st annual Gilroy Garlic Festival back in May.
For the Christopher High School alumna (class of 2016) and former Christopher Ranch employee, the opportunity to represent the Garlic Capital is one she will hold dear to her heart.
“It’s been great to be able to represent Gilroy so far,” said the 20-year-old Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo senior who enjoyed being part of Gilroy’s Memorial Day Parade and taking her royal court of nine pageant winners on a tour of Christopher Ranch. “It’s been really, really awesome. … A lot of my duties haven’t even started yet. That comes at the Garlic Festival.”
The famed Gilroy Garlic Festival will be held July 26-28 at Christmas Hill Park, where Kuwada will greet festival goers, hand out cooking competition hardware, make appearances on music stages and be the ultimate ambassador for her hometown.
“As the queen and court, we walk around the festival and get to interact with the patrons,” said Kuwada. “That’s my favorite part.”
Kuwada, daughter to Christopher High School Assistant Principal Eric Kuwada and CHS school counselor Marah Kuwada, won the Garlic Queen pageant on her third and final attempt.
“Getting up on stage during the crowning, I didn’t have any expectations of winning. I enjoyed every moment of the pageant. I put my best foot forward. I was excited for any one of us to win,” said Kuwada, who had previously been a member of the queen’s court. “I was completely shocked. I feel so lucky and humble. We all could have won. It’s such an amazing, competitive group.”
Kuwada got a taste of representing her hometown while in high school when she was one of eight students selected as an ambassador for the Gilroy-Takko Student Exchange Program. In that capacity, she visited Takko-Machi, Japan.
“That’s what made me really want to be queen. I really enjoyed being an ambassador for Gilroy while I was in Japan,” said Kuwada. “I really enjoyed representing Gilroy. I know that small-town feeling and how special it is. Going away to SLO, I got an even stronger appreciation of Gilroy and how special it is.”
Growing up in the Garlic Capital, Kuwada has fond memories of attending the Garlic Festival with family and friends.
“I’ve definitely attended the festival my whole life. I lived close enough to walk,” said Kuwada, who also volunteered in several capacities including a memorable post in the famed Gourmet Alley. “Being in high school and growing up in Gilroy, you would volunteer for your organization or club and the festival would give back.”
Kuwada was awarded the $1,000 top prize from the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association as well as a $10,000 scholarship from Christopher Ranch. She was also awarded the Past Queen and Past President scholarships valued at $400 and $800 respectively.
Kuwada’s favorite festival munchies are the pasta con pesto and garlic bread. She was especially jazzed about the enhancement of garlic-bread-to-go this year.
“I’m very excited and honored to represent Gilroy at the 41st Gilroy Garlic Festival,” Kuwada said, “and making so many memories in those days with the rest of the court.”
The rest of the 2019 royal garlic court includes First Runner-Up Lilly Higgins, Second Runner-Up Lauryn Longoria, and princesses Amaya Leyba-Guerra, Simran Sihra, Jennesa Andrade, Katie Van Horn, Brianna Budelli, Raeanne Ceballos and Gisselle Oliveira.
MEET THE GARLIC QUEEN
Name: Kylie Kuwada
High School/Class: Christopher High School/Class of 2016
College/Major: Cal Poly SLO/Environmental Management and Protection major with biology minor