Jan Wahl raves about how good the spicy garlic butter cookies with garlic goat cheese and honey were to the crowd after the Cook-Off winner Andre Barth, from Winnetka, California shows off his dish Saturday.

Gilroy Garlic Festival goers choked highways and entrances to
Christmas Hill Park Saturday morning, but for festival
administrators, that means one thing: Gilroy’s still got it.
Gilroy Garlic Festival goers choked highways and entrances to Christmas Hill Park on Saturday morning.

Visitors turned out in droves, and traffic clogged U.S. 101 back to Morgan Hill. Diehard fans who haven’t missed a festival in all of its 31 years mingled with newcomers looking to save a few bucks by finding fun closer to home.

“It’s been a great day and weekend,” said Brian Bowe, executive director of the Garlic Festival Association.

Although he would not venture a guess as to how many visitors walked through the front gate that morning, lured by the scent of all that is garlic, Bowe estimated that about twice as many people turned out Saturday for the spectacle as Friday. The association won’t know final numbers until after the festival is over, he said.

Newcomers to the festival, Stuart Kellermyer, 41, and his daughter Gamble, 3, took a breather from the mid-afternoon heat by digging into a cup of ice cream.

“I’m at the mercy of what she wants to do,” Kellermyer said, gesturing to his blond, blue-eyed daughter who perched on a hay bale a few feet away from an enthused group of garlic braiders. “And right now, it’s pretty much sitting in the shade, taking an ice cream break.”

Of Watsonville, Kellermyer came to this year’s festival for the first time to see a friend, Emily Tessman, perform at the Gazebo stage. The size and diversity of the crowd that swelled around him and his daughter amazed him, he said.

“It seems like people come from everywhere for this,” he said. “We’ll probably start coming every year now.”

A people watcher, Kellermyer casually observed the eclectic mix of festival goers as his daughter dug into her ice cream. After she finished her treat, the two headed off in the direction of the children’s area.

While many chose ice cream and shade as their primary method of staying cool, others imbibed.

“Visitors need to drink water when they’re hot, not beer,” said Peg Geringer, chairwoman for the First Aid Services Team.

Dehydration and heat exhaustion, often times from alcohol, were two of the top reasons people visited the first aid tent, she said.

Paramedics transported three visitors to the hospital Friday and six as of about 5:30 p.m. Saturday, said Marcie Lee Morrow, spokeswoman for American Medical Response. Most were heat related but one was for a bee sting allergy and another for cardiac complications, Morrow said. Although she did not have exact numbers, she guessed that the emergency response team received at least 50 calls for service.

However, compared to last year, the number of people seeking medical assistance is low, Geringer said.

“This has been one of the nicer years,” said Matthew Stein, another Red Cross volunteer.

The lower temperatures – hovering around 86 degrees – and cool breeze helped a lot, Geringer said. She also attributed the lower number of people seeking medical aid to good planning on the Garlic Festival’s part, citing more shade structures and misting machines.

Law enforcement made four arrests Friday – two for alcohol violations and two for resisting arrests, one of which included assault on a police officer – said Sgt. Jim Gillio. As of 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Gillio reported 14 total arrests – 11 for alcohol violations, two for being drunk in public and one for narcotics, about in line with the number of arrests officers made last year on the second day of the festival.

Unlike last year, none of the arrests were for fighting in public, Gillio said.

“It seems like a good crowd,” he said.

Making a beeline back to her station at one of the beer gardens, Jane Howard, executive director of the Gilroy Visitors Bureau, agreed.

“Everyone is in such good spirits,” she said. “I’ve never experienced so many ‘thank yous’ before. I really think people need something like this right now.”

Over at Gourmet Alley, Steve Ashford, a quality control engineer, enumerated a growing list of products that ran out Saturday, including basics like olive oil and black pepper.

“We’re using a lot more product than usual,” he said. “The more that come, the more that eat.”

Visitors went through more than 200 gallons of olive oil and about 1,000 loaves of bread Saturday alone, Ashford said. However, help was on the way and Gourmet Alley will forge ahead on the last day of the festival with replenished supplies, he said.

Taking advantage of the bounty of Gourmet Alley, Chris Hermosa, 29, and a group of friends settled themselves on the lawn in front of the Vineyard stage Saturday afternoon, beer and pepper steak sandwiches in hand – two essentials that make the festival what it is, Hermosa said. Marking his sixth festival, Hermosa comes for the great food, the music and the people – mostly girl – watching, he said.

“What can I say, it’s a great place to meet girls,” he said, his eyes following a group of girls wearing flowing, summery dresses.

Between the garlic delicacies, the day-drinking and the women, “It doesn’t get much better than this,” Hermosa said. “It’s turning out to be a perfect day.”

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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