One of the last things that I expected out here in Exile was to find proof that small town America is still alive and well. I am happy to report that it is healthy, fun, and it smells like garlic.
This past weekend I visited the garlic capital of the United States for the 31st Annual Garlic Festival.. Now if you are anything like me you didn't even know that there was a garlic capital of the US. If you did know that then you would be outright lying if you knew that there was a whole festival centered around the bulb that has been going on for 31 years!
The first thing that hit me when I approached the town of Gilroy was that I knew I was close about 10 miles before I was actually close. Now we all know that garlic can be pretty powerful, especially if your significant other has been munching a good pesto. But what is the real proximity of it's power? 10 feet? 20 if there is extra garlic on that chicken. Now imagine how much garlic it takes in one place to be able to smell it 10 miles away!
The most impressive thing about the festival was easily how committed Gilroy is to the festival and the Garlic. This is a place where high school kids give up their weekend to direct traffic for the 100,000 people that will visit. Then there was the garlic pruning competition which in of itself isn't as exciting as the side bets on who will win (Gustavo lost it for me!) What I didn't know was that the pruning competition finishes with a massive garlic grab where at some secret signal the crowd dove into the garlic arena to wrestle amongst and for massive bulbs of garlic.
If you haven't figured it out. yet, you have never seen a people that are so into their garlic. Sure I understand that garlic is the life blood of this town but you have never seen such a creativity of garlic anywhere. Green Bay has the cheese hat, Gilroy the garlic hat. Florence has the David, Gilroy the flaming garlic statue. Atlantic City has Miss America, now introducing Ms. Gilroy Garlic! Philadelphia has the Phanatic, Gilroy the weird old guy dressed as a bulb of garlic. Seriously.
Of course the real star of the festival is the Garlic. It is in everything bite of food that they serve. The Gilroy pepper steak's secret ingredient is of course garlic. The garlic shrimp scampi should be no surprise. But garlic steak taco? Garlic Gator? The fine Jelly Belly folks produce a garlic flavored jelly bean! Lastly... garlic ice cream!
So I left the Garlic festival in total surprise of how much fun these people could make garlic. Driving away back to Exile with no fear of vampires for at least the next few days I had some good memories of the great people of Gilroy. No, its not a grand story like skydiving, but it is good to know that you can find a place like Gilroy even if you didn't know you were looking for it.