Gilroy Garlic Festival

Bay Area Reacts to Gilroy Garlic Festival Cancellation

The festival was canceled in 2020 and a small drive-thru event followed in 2021.

NBC Universal, Inc.

Bay Area residents are reacting after the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association announced Thursday that it would it cancel the popular annual festival indefinitely.

In a statement Thursday, the festival board said because of the lingering uncertainties due to the pandemic and high insurance costs, there won’t be a festival in the “foreseeable future.”

There were a lot of people that were very upset about the decision and social media blew up after the news became public Thursday night.

Gilroy is a small town with a big reputation and its unofficial title of the "Garlic Capitol of the World" is largely due to the annual garlic festival. The decision to end the festival "for the foreseeable future" will hurt many local nonprofits, youth groups and businesses like “The Garlic Shoppe.”

“Well, I’m upset about it because it’s our thing in Gilroy and we all love it. And we will lose a lot of business because of it, I think,” Dolores Naslund, a worker with The Garlic Shoppe.

The steep decline of the festival is easily traceable to the 2019 mass shooting, that left three people dead and 17 injured.

The festival was canceled in 2020 and a small drive-through event followed in 2021.

People NBC Bay Area talked to Friday said that the shooting changed everything. Gilroy resident George Solanzo said that he hasn’t attended the event since the shooting.

“Well, I kind of feel like, you know, there might be somebody out there who is ready to harm you or anything like that,” he said.

But Ken Christopher of “Christopher Ranch,” one of the major Garlic companies in the world and whose family helped start the festival in 1979, said the city let the festival down by requiring $10 million of insurance coverage.

“Yes, attendance could have been improved. Yes, busing could’ve been better. But the insurance requirements the city was asking for the festival were incredibly cost prohibitive and there’s no way any festival, any organization could pull something off with those kind of restraints,” he said.

NBC Bay Area reached out to city leaders about the festival’s cancellation but did not hear back. At public meetings, officials have said costs and liability are the main problems with the current festival.

Organizers are considering smaller events and concerts to make up for the loss but acknowledge nothing resembling the old garlic festival.

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