The annual Gilroy Rodeo kicked off Wednesday evening, marking one of the first large scale community events in Gilroy since the deadly Garlic Festival mass shooting.
About 100 people attended the first night of the rodeo, and many took it as an opportunity to move past the mass shooting last week, some attending for the first time in a show of support.
“In the spirit of Gilroy, I figured I’d come out and support this event,” said Kathy Rodoni, a Santa Cruz resident.
The event also featured a visible and beefed up law enforcement presence, especially around the perimeter. Organizers of the event said that the rodeo is much smaller than the Garlic Festival and easier to keep secure.
“We’re going to have a volunteer security Mounted Unit out in the parking lots,” said Kurt Ashley, the rodeo’s Public Safety Director. “Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department will be out here, so we will have deputies out here along with our paid security.”
For Gilroy residents Abigail and Valerie Lora, who had #GilroyStrong t-shirts made after the shooting, the event was a chance to heal. Attending the rodeo was important for Valerie, who is a survivor of the Route 91 Music Festival mass shooting in Las Vegas two years ago, and who was affected by the Gilroy shooting although she didn’t attend the Garlic Festival.
“This Gilroy shooting was like a reset for me, it’s so close to home. I mean, my parents are less than a mile from here,” she said.
About 6,500 people attend the rodeo each year. The event raises money for community projects and scholarships.