We’ve taken two family trips south on 101 to Garlic-ville, for this enormous, hot, dusty Gilroy Garlic Festival. Worth it? Not really. Like all festivals, this one has numerous ways for you to spend your money – many of them on water since it’s so darn hot (tip: bring your own bottles and refill at the water fountain – you’ll drink a LOT out there). Yes, there are cooking demonstrations that look awesome, but my kids can’t sit through them. Several music stages also provide entertainment, and you can find some shady spots spread throughout, with barrels of hay to sit on.
This photo is of Ariele Combs, the 2008 Miss Gilroy Garlic. According to the Garlic Festival's website, Miss Garlic performed a jazz dance for the talent portion of the competition and gave a speech titles "The Biggest Garlic." But that's another story.
The good: The money raised ($12 adult entry, $6 for kids over age 6) goes for community programs. There’s free parking and you won’t go hungry, with what seems like hundreds of food booths. The kids area has a few free activities – most cost. The garlic topping contest (more below) – my personal fave. The free tiny garlic ice cream in cones are also a bonus.
The bad: it’s hot. It’s dusty. Aside from half a dozen rides and bounce houses, there’s not a lot to do with the kids there (unless you want to win a hermit crab by throwing a ball in a bowl – that costs) . Ironically, the lovely playground at ChristmasTree Park is closed off during the festival. Perhaps because parents would rather have their kids play for free rather than forking out $2.85 per ride on the swirling teacups or soaring airplanes? Perhaps out of liability reasons? I’ll leave you to your own conclusions.
The Home Depot booth in the kids’ area, offering free personalized kid-size orange aprons, and a free project to complete there – using hammers and screwdrivers! And there was enough staff to move you through efficiently, but without rushing you. We left with a cute orange wooden car and a bobsled. Of course my son picked the most complicated project and lost interest after hammering in part of one nail and two screws.
My other favorite activity: the garlic topping contest. Four local garlic pickers (last year: Fernando, Miguel, Alfredo and Juan) compete to see who could cut the tops and roots off the most garlic (by weight) in five minutes. Few of the spectators really care who wins the $50 first prize. We’re all waiting for the signal when we can gather the leftover garlic, spread out on the field, in our bags. It’s like a piñata breaking for adults. It’s a bit pathetic, really. We just paid $12 each to get in and we’re scrambling around the floor like pigs, for leftover garlic we can buy in bulk at Costco for a few bucks. Of course I was one of those pigs, and I paid my kids a dime for each head they scored. Now I’m ready to set up a stand to sell those 25 garlic heads. Think Costco is buying?
When: July 24-26, 2009
Where: Gilroy – here are directions to the Gilroy Garlic Festival
Cost: $12/adult, $6/kids over age 6