Do you like garlic? I mean, really like garlic? I mean, like it so much you don’t mind people gagging at your mere scent? Would you bathe in the stuff if you could? Then you’ve got to go to Gilroy, California.
Gilroy California is the garlic capital of the world. Kinda.
It is in the middle of nowhere (southeast of San Jose, California) and home of America’s premier and darn near ONLY garlic resources. And guess what? They have a festival. Yeah! A garlic festival! And we went! Don’t ask why. (Okay, we were bored.)
The Gilroy Garlic Festival was huge.
Apparently it’s the highlight for many people in that area. It was like going to a Disney theme park if Walt was a hillbilly—there were dirt parking lots, big ones, and lots of them. We were in Lot 2, Section D, Row 7. When you start labeling the rows, you know there’s gonna be a lot of people. And that’s what you want when it’s really hot out—hundreds of overheated hungry garlic fans.
The organizers even provided “tour-style” shuttle buses to drive people from the lot to the event. We didn’t want to wait, so we walked.
Pro-tip: Don’t walk in Gilroy California’s blistering heat.
Hours later, we arrived, sweaty and gasping for water. It was about 110 degrees out and vultures were circling. Stepping into the shade was like walking into a freezer. We hopped from shade patch to shade patch viewing the various garlic-themed crafts and foodstuffs. Naturally, we went for the garlic fries. The garlic pizza. And a few garlic quesadillas. Mmmm.
In Gilroy California, they’ll put garlic in damn near anything.
They also had Ostrich, Buffalo, Venison and other dead, cooked animals I can’t remember….all on a stick. How can you not love that? But one substance we tried really pushed the garlic envelope. Garlic ice cream. Yeah, that’s what we said, too. Then we noticed it was free. So we tried some.
Opinions of the stuff ranged from “Ohmigod, I’m gonna be sick” to “Ohmigod, I’m going to carve out my own tongue. Get it off! Get it off! Get it off!” Actually, it wasn’t that bad. It tasted “nutty” at first, then like vanilla. It just wasn’t what anyone wanted right before dropping dead from heat prostration. We perused the displays of garlic-related painting, photos and sculpture. We even bought a painting–nothing garlic-themed, just a martini-glass. Kinda cool.
Garlic doesn’t keep away Country music, unfortunately.
Throughout the area, several southern-rock, oh sorry…Country bands played on stages while people sat and stank. But just as we were losing consciousness from the heat, we ran across something called a “rain tent”. Crawling closer, we looked up to see a structure with mist streaming from the ceiling.
Rain tents were the best thing about Gilroy California.
We dusted ourselves off and walked inside where nearly half of the festival attendees stood packed like garlic sardines, mesmerized by the small droplets of water beading up on their arm hairs. We imagined that this was pretty much how produce must feel in a grocery store. (Since it felt so good, it eased our guilt about bringing produce home and slicing it into small pieces with a cleaver.) It was kind of a reverse sauna. You could hardly see two feet ahead of you because of the mist, but the moisture made it incredibly cool.
You can leave Gilroy California, but the place really stays with you.
We waited until we were blissfully and thoroughly drenched and then headed back to the car smelling like the Italian section of SF had exploded around us.
Fortunately, we drove a rental car.