The Gilroy Garlic Festival is ending its decades-long run due to pandemic uncertainty and lack of funding, organizers said this week.
Garlic Festival Association Past President Tom Cline and Vice President-Elect Cindy Fellows said “lingering uncertainties” from the pandemic and “prohibitive insurance requirements by the City of Gilroy” has resulted in the festival being cancelled indefinitely, according to a statement obtained by the Gilroy Dispatch.
“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 also pointed to funding problems, saying that the Garlic Festival Association hasn’t received any revenue since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 to July 2021. Smaller events are still on the schedule for 2022, with details to be announced soon, according to the festival’s website.
Since its founding in 1979, the festival — one of the most famous food festivals in the nation — has raised more than $12 million for schools and local nonprofits.
The festival, normally held at Christmas Hill Park, has faced difficulty in recent years. In 2021, the festival returned in “reimagined” fashion and staged the event over two weekends in July and August. Organizers had originally hoped to throw an event in 2020 as a symbol of unity after a mass shooting at the 2019 festival left three people dead. But the pandemic threw a wrench in those plans.
The shooting occurred July 28, 2019, as the 41st annual event was concluding its three-day run. A 19-year-old gunman opened fire on the crowd, killing three and injuring 17 before dying from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.
The festival serves as Gilroy’s biggest fundraiser for the year, with volunteers working the event to earn money for their schools, clubs and other nonprofits.