You know you’ve arrived in Gilroy, California when the unmistakably pungent aroma of garlic invades your car even with the windows closed. During the last weekend of July, this self-proclaimed “garlic capital of the world” comes together to put on what they call “the world’s greatest summer food festival.” Every year, approximately 100,000 people come by plane, train (Caltrain “Garlic Express” runs to the festival on Saturday and Sunday), and automobile for this unforgettable foodie-friendly festival. Since 1979, the festival has reached 4,216,918 people and has raised $10,931,725 to pass onto community non-profits.
The star of the event, the lure that draws people in is “the stinking rose.” Every year, festival attendees consume upwards of 2 tons of fresh garlic and the options seem pretty endless in the dizzying spread of food trucks and tents located in the heart of the festival known as gourmet alley. There, garlic gets slathered on bread, speckles fries, gets grilled into sauce-sopped hunks of barbecued meat. Along with garlic-laden food, attendees can anticipate three days of entertainment as musicians croon on one of three stages, with a full line-up that includes tribute bands like Donald Elvis and the Hound Dogs. For the first time, in 2016, local EMTs, police officers and firemen competed to raise money for their favorite charity in the Champions for Charity cook-off. This is the first year also for “Garli-que” BBQ Challenges (one for professional cooks, the other for home cooks) that bring garlicky goodness by barbecue at this Kansas City BBQ Society sanctioned event.
Whatever whets your whistle you’re bound to find a fun time at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. If you’ve visited the festival, what is your favorite food?
Annelies Zijderveld’s first cookbook, Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea, is available now. She has been published in Curator magazine, Arthouse America, and Sated Magazine. Follow her teatime antics and cooking with tea journey on Instagram.