Event organizer

Fresno’s New Garlic Festival Isn’t a Gilroy Competitor

Organizers of a new garlic festival in Fresno County say the event isn’t meant to compete with Gilroy’s longstanding tradition, but rather a celebration of the California-grown bulb and the people who grow it. ‘have created.

The National Garlic Festival, organized by National Food Festivals, Inc., will take place May 13-15 at the Fresno Fairgrounds, organizers announced Feb. 16.

The 2022 series of events for the Gilroy Garlic Festival are expected to be announced soon.

“It’s very important to us that the people of Gilroy don’t think we’re trying to take anything away from them or put them down for the great work they do and have done,” said Peter DeYoung, CEO of National Food. Festivals. “We are Gilroy’s biggest fan. We share the same goals, to promote California garlic. We have huge admiration for their festival and hope it comes back.

National Food Festivals held a small Garlic Festival in 2019 to gauge interest from people in the Central Valley. It drew more than 20,000 people who braved the 108-degree heat, DeYoung said, and now with a bigger venue, organizers hope the 2022 event will surpass the world record for attendance at a festival in the garlic of 109,067 participants, compiled by Gilroy in 2011.

DeYoung acknowledged that the rhetoric surrounding the 2019 event was a little too strong, with organizers proclaiming Fresno County the “true” garlic capital of the world, noting that its acreage devoted to growing the bulb far exceeds that of Santa Clara County.

And while that’s true — Fresno County harvested 24,660 acres compared to Santa Clara County’s 450, according to their respective 2020 harvest reports — DeYoung said that’s no longer the angle the festival takes. , and it expects that language to be eliminated from its marketing materials. .

“Our garlic growing out of the ground in Fresno County may be the largest such crop in the United States, but it’s nothing without the people who turn it into consumer goods,” he said. he stated, emphasizing the “symbiotic relationship” between garlic growers. and transformers such as Christopher Ranch at Gilroy. “It’s really about California garlic, not about who’s better than anyone else.”

DeYoung said the festival hopes to find ways to work with Gilroy’s garlic industry, helping to promote the importance of the locally grown bulb that faces challenges from Chinese exporters flooding the market.

“We are with open arms, not a fist in the air,” he said, adding that festival organizers had been in contact with Christopher Ranch, the country’s largest garlic grower. “We should not be seen as adversaries. We have a lot to do for California garlic, and we need to do it together.

Ken Christopher, executive vice president of Christopher Ranch, said National Food Festivals has been in touch with the Gilroy company to explore ways to promote the culture.

“Nothing has been finalized on our end, but our goal has been and always will be to champion US-grown produce, especially California garlic,” he said. “If Fresno wants to be a part of this narrative, we invite them to support and promote California garlic growers.”

Fresno festival plans to feature more than 300 garlic-inspired foods, a garlic farming showcase, performance stages, carnival and more, plus Food Network celebrity chefs teaching attendees garlic-inspired dishes.

Healthcare workers who show their work ID will get free entry to the festival.

For information, visit nationalgarlicfestival.com.

Jeff Speno, 2022 president of the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association, said the festival plans to be more of a signature event.

After a canceled event in 2020, the festival returned in 2021 with a Gourmet Alley drive-in, golf tournament and dinner.

“We will continue to work to connect our community to various smaller events, educational activities and giving opportunities throughout the year,” Speno said, adding that 2022 events will be announced shortly.

Since 1979, the nonprofit organization has distributed more than $12 million to local organizations.

“While there are many other garlic festivals across the United States, there is only one Gilroy Garlic Festival that is truly the heart of the community,” he said. “Our historic mission to strengthen ties within our community is an ongoing commitment.