Gilroy Garlic Festival 2021 will see a different format

Organizers of the Gilroy Garlic Festival say the event will resume this summer, but it will be a lot different.

The event was canceled last year because of the pandemic.

This year will mark the first such festival since a deadly shooting at the event in 2019, when three people were killed and 17 others injured after a teenage gunman opened fire on the crowd.

Gilroy Mayor Marie Blankley says a memorial will permanently remain at Christmas Hill Park, but this year's festival will be held at a new location.

She doesn't think the festival will ever be the same as it used to be.

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"I don't think that's because of the shooting. I think that's just because of the times and where the festival was headed anyway," said Blankley.

Because of COVID-19, the festival's main event will be a drive-thru where garlic-flavored foods will be handed to people in their cars.

Instead of one weekend, the adapted garlic festival will take place during the last two weekends of July and include a farm-to-table dinner and golf tournament.

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The main event will be a drive-thru "Gourmet Alley" at the Gilroy Presbyterian Church on July 23-25 and July 30-August 1 where people with pre-paid orders for garlic-themed food will simply pick it up in their cars.

"It won't be what we're used to," said Tom Cline, Gilroy Garlic Festival Association President. "People want their garlic festival food. We know that "

Organizers say the pandemic forced them to pivot to a scaled down event because of restrictions on large events.

Many community members welcome back the tradition of more than 40 years.

"It's not at all on the scale of what it used to be, but it will something that can make us all smile. And that's what's important," said Blankley.

Details are still being worked out but one thing is clear: the festival will host a fraction of the guests compared to the past.

The event used to draw between 80,000 and 100,000 people over its three-day run.

"We are looking forward to the first time after COVID and plan on doing the drive-thru and whatever it takes," said Robert Labouff, who recently moved to Gilroy.

"I think it definitely would be better than nothing at all," said former festival volunteer David Eichenbaum. "It's something that brings the community together."

Organizers are working with health department officials and do not anticipate COVID testing will be required.