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April 17, 2021

Year in Review 2020: An historical year for Gilroy

Time capsule, bell installation to conclude sesquicentennial

Gilroy’s sesquicentennial was one for the history books. But not in the way anyone had imagined going into 2020.

A once-in-a-century pandemic transformed daily life for not only Gilroyans, but the world. As a result, various sesquicentennial events planned throughout 2020 were canceled.

However, Gilroy’s 150th anniversary doesn’t end with 2020, and organizers have plans for the next few months.

The Ohlone Indians, the first inhabitants of the Gilroy area, were forcibly relocated to area missionaries following the arrival of the Spanish in the late 1700s. In 1810, Ygnacio Ortega was awarded a Spanish land grant of 13,000 acres, known as Rancho San Ysidro.

In 1821, the city’s namesake John Gilroy settled in Rancho San Ysidro, and later served as mayor. By 1868, Gilroy was incorporated as a town, and attracted a railroad.

On March 12, 1870, Gilroy incorporated as a legislative charter city.

Gilroy’s Sesquicentennial Committee was established by then-Mayor Roland Velasco, which held its first meeting in February 2019. The 14-member committee consists of city and school district officials, historians and other community leaders.

According to committee member Bob Weaver, various ideas had to be shelved due to the pandemic, such as a parade and a history day at a park.

Street banners celebrating the 150th anniversary, which have since been replaced by holiday banners, are available for purchase at

The logo for the 150th celebration was designed by Gilroy native Carol Peters, who was among a number of artists who submitted concepts to the city for a contest in 2019. The design features Old City Hall as well as some garlic cloves, and was used on the banners around town and various merchandise.

Weaver said the committee is still collecting items for a time capsule through March 12, 2021. 

In addition, an El Camino Real Bell and plaque will be unveiled in the downtown paseo at 7453 Monterey St. in 2021. The bell symbolizes the guidepost bells that were placed along the 600-mile El Camino Real to guide travelers in the early 1900s from San Diego to Sonoma.

Gilroy also had an historical election on Nov. 3. Marie Blankley was elected mayor, becoming the second woman in the city’s history to accomplish that feat. The first was Roberta Hughan, who served from 1983-1991.

For information on Gilroy’s sesquicentennial, visit

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