The Gilroy Garlic Festival will not host its traditional event this year or for the “foreseeable future.” Instead, a series of smaller, more intimate events are on tap to bring the festival back to its roots and focus on its original mission: to celebrate garlic and the people behind it while giving back to the community.
In a statement, Garlic Festival Association Past President Tom Cline and Vice President-Elect Cindy Fellows cited “lingering uncertainties” from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as “prohibitive insurance requirements by the City of Gilroy.”
“Obviously, we are left frustrated and disappointed,” the statement read. “Our world-renowned festival has helped showcase Gilroy and the South County for 42 years while raising many millions of dollars for local charities.”
Cline said the Garlic Festival Association, now an all-volunteer organization, received no revenue since the start of the pandemic in early 2020 to July 2021, when it hosted a series of events.
Before that, the association was losing money for roughly a decade, due to rising costs that included busing attendees into Christmas Hill Park when the Glen Loma Ranch development took over a vacant lot previously used for parking.
According to financials released by the festival in late 2019, the association donated $250,000 to 155 local charities and nonprofit organizations that year. However, while gross income increased slightly to $3.08 million, the festival lost about $100,000, in addition to $400,000 in 2018.
Insurance premiums have skyrocketed in recent years, making them unrealistic for the festival, according to Cline. And that’s on top of the challenges of finding a company willing to insure.
The city requires special events to have a minimum general liability coverage of $1 million for any events happening on city property.
Further complicating matters, the association is among the defendants named in a series of lawsuits following the 2019 mass shooting at the festival that left three dead and 17 others injured. The cases continue to wind through the court system.
The association had already been discussing how to reimagine the festival prior to 2019. Now, it’s going all in on this evolution.
Fellows said the introduction of smaller events in 2021 was a success for the association, and the organization hopes to expand on that for 2022.
The second Garlic Festival golf tournament is scheduled for June 24 at the Gilroy Golf Course, followed by a country music concert at Clos LaChance Winery on July 13 and a farm-to-table dinner in September.
“Everyone focuses on what we had been,” Cline said. “Scaling it back takes nothing away from the impact it’s had on the community. It’s a treasure. It’s a family reunion.”Information will be available soon at gilroygarlicfestivalassociation.com.