Gilroy Garlic Festival returns with drive-thru format for 2021

For the first time in over a year, the Gilroy Garlic Festival is open for business. The annual event was canceled all together last year because of the pandemic.

"We’re back. We’re excited. The thing we’ve been focused on is making this work," said Tom Cline, president of the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association.

As the world has had had to confront many challenges brought on by COVID, festival organizers had to reimagine the famous "Gourmet Alley." The festival was moved from Christmas Hill Park to the parking lot of the Presbyterian church.

"Any church should really be the community center of their community, right? So what better way to have people come and use our facilities and enjoy it with us and be part of what god’s given us," said Trevor Van Larr, the church’s pastor.

All the traditional staples of the garlic festival are here, garlic lovers can still grab all their favorite eats like the pepper steak sandwich, shrimp scampi, and garlic fries. But attendees must order on the festival website in advance, then drive-thru to pick up their food.

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"Having it right here with the open window, they can see that. The guys will be reacting and talking. So we’re trying to capture some of that," said Cline.

This festival was cut short in 2019 when suspect, Santino Legan, opened fire killing three people and wounding 12 others. Last year, the COVID pandemic forced the festival’s cancelation. This year marks the return of the four-decade annual South Bay event.

"It’s a great example of communities doing for themselves," said Dr. Robert Chapman Wood, a professor of strategic management at San Jose State University. "The sense that you get from being at a locally produced festival is very different than what you get from watching productions of any kind."

Local attendee Suzanne Bible brought her grandchildren to experience the new way, to see and feel the old festival.

"I wanted to make sure they got to see what we’re trying to do and the effort to try and get it all back. Back to as best as it can be, what it was," said Bible.

The festival operates from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday. And Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. . Those hours will repeat the following weekend.