September 17, 2007

A Contemporary Family Vacation: The Gilroy Garlic Festival
Jeff tastes garlic ice cream

My life long dream of tasting garlic ice cream would finally be realized.

After a few days in the clean mountain air of Yosemite it was time for a change. So the family trekked across California’s central San Joaquin Valley to Gilroy with its pungent garlic-infused atmosphere. Truly. As we wound our way down the slopes of the Diablo mountain range just east of the city we rolled down the windows to smell the bulb that would be the center of attention that third week in July. We were on our way to the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival.

To be honest, we were really on our way to visit my sister, Pam, and her numerous corn snakes who live in Gilroy. It wasn’t until I tried to make reservations at the motel we always stay at that I realized our visit would coincide with the festivities: a room which normally goes for $70 a night would set us back a whopping $250 a night! Needless to say, we made reservations at a more reasonable motor inn a few miles north (one that was oblivious to the cash cow a few miles away).

Gilroy is known as the Garlic Capital of the World. At least that’s the city’s official line, despite the fact that more garlic comes from China these days. And everyone has heard of the Garlic Festival. As we were checking into our motel, there were three young guys from New Jersey who had seen a segment on the Food Channel and had to make the pilgrimage. My sister had lived in the area for decades but this would be the first time my visit would intersect the festival. My life long dream of tasting garlic ice cream would finally be realized.

Showgirls at the Paris in Las Vegas and the Garlic Queen and her Court

Separated at birth? I noticed an odd coincidence when I got home and viewed my trip photographs. Show girls from the Paris in Las Vegas on the left and the Garlic Queen and her Princesses on the right.

Gilroy in July is hot and dry. Wide-brimmed hats and sunscreen are required. It’s interesting to see my sister work these events. Wherever she goes she seems to know everyone everywhere. Before we even got through the turnstile the Miss Garlic Festival Queen gave her a royal kiss. “How’s your mother?” my sister asked as we paid for our tickets.

The festival itself is a series of arts and crafts vendors (no garlic theme required) and various cooking booths along Gourmet Alley featuring the bulb as the star ingredient. I was interested in exotic garlic epicurean combos (my ice cream cone winning hands down), my wife was on the lookout for those special garlic-related souvenirs (I thought these garlic-shaped hats were pretty special), and our daughters were interested in any tchotchke Aunt Pam would buy them.

When we got home my girls couldn’t stop talking about Gilroy. The festival? No way. They wanted a corn snake after Aunt Pam announced she’d be glad to part with one just for her two favorite nieces. Thanks Aunt Pam. Even after I told them they’d have to feed it live, or even worse, dead mice they could not be dissuaded. Ummm, maybe next year. Yeah, next year.

For us parents the Gilroy Garlic Festival was a once in a lifetime event: once in a lifetime, I think, will be enough. After all, after you’ve tasted garlic ice cream, what else is there?

Related posts: A Contemporary Family Vacation: Introduction, Living La Dolce Vegas, A Contemporary Family Vacation: The Eastern Sierras, A Contemporary Family Vacation: Yosemite, and Because I Could

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Next year? Next year? Great!!!! Now I know just what my nieces will be getting for their birthdays. Be prepared: first you’ll need a tank for the critters… Hee Hee. I love the pics of the Las Vegas showgirls and the Gilroy Garlic Queen and her court. They are almost identical. Love from the garlic capital of the world. Sis

Posted by: Pamela on September 18, 2007 8:44 PM

Hi! I remember going to a local garlic festival here in southern Finland (we have all kinds of more or less weird festivals over here) and also feeling a need to taste the garlic ice cream. It was a bit odd though, if I remember correctly…

Did you happen to taste the garlic beer? That was weird too, but interesting :)

Posted by: Ben on October 10, 2007 2:07 PM

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