Maggie Pickford is Miss Gilroy Garlic Queen
Published in the July 19 – August 1, 2017 issue of Gilroy Life
By Andrea “Andi” Joseph
Wearing a crown on behalf of one of the largest food festivals in the country is quite a responsibility, and Maggie Pickford is excited to shoulder it as 2017 Miss Gilroy Garlic Festival Queen.
“I remember walking around in the children’s area with my family when I was younger and seeing the court,” said Pickford, who will begin studying psychobiology at UCLA in the fall. “I was always so intrigued by them, and I hope to have a similar impression on others.”
The 18-year-old Gilroy High School grad will have that opportunity July 28, 29 and 30 as she and her court represent the 39th annual Gilroy Garlic Festival. The court includes first runner-up Kylie Kuwada, second runners-up Emily Boykin and Lexy Cartwright, and princesses Lindsey Buessing, Mariah Carpenter, Mary McClelland, Macey Lee Mitchell and Adrianna Molina.
Pickford, who has volunteered in Gourmet Alley the past few years, sees the festival as a chance to build on her love of the event and her hometown.
“I hope to learn more of the ins and out of the planning for the festival in an effort to gain an even greater appreciation for the incredible event our town has managed to put on for 39 years,” Pickford said. “I would love to continue to be involved as I grow up.”
First runner-up Kuwada, 18, who worked at Christopher Ranch during the summer, said she’s honored to be on the court.
“I am most excited to represent Gilroy and be even more immersed in the community,” said Kuwada, who has volunteered at the festival for the past five years. “I have a whole new appreciation of garlic and how we are truly THE Garlic Capital of the World.”
Both Pickford and Kuwada visited Gilroy’s sister city – Takko Machi, Japan – with Gilroy High School’s Gilroy-Takko Student Exchange Program (GTSEP). That experience influenced both teens’ decisions to enter the Garlic Festival pageant.
“I had such a fantastic and life-changing experience there that I knew if there was any way I could return and see my host family and the other people in that remarkable town, I had to at least give it a shot,” Pickford said.
She added that she can’t wait to return to the Sister City for their annual festival to represent Gilroy.
“I’m beyond ecstatic to return to Takko in the fall for their Beef and Garlic Festival,” Pickford said. “To be able to return to such a welcoming town … with the honor of representing the city that made me who I am today, is an absolutely indescribable feeling.”
Kuwada, who attends Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and studies environmental management and protection, echoed those sentiments.
“After traveling to our Sister City of Takko Machi in 2015, I knew I wanted to (participate in the pageant),” she said. “I have such love for Gilroy. Gilroy is truly like no other community, and it’s amazing how strong friendships are formed over the love of garlic not only in the country, but worldwide.”
Kuwada added that July is always a special time in Gilroy and the excitement in the days leading up to the festival is palpable.
“I can feel it,” she said. “The smell of garlic flows from Christopher Ranch into the town, and it’s like a signal that the festival is approaching.”
And the when it arrives, the festival brings with it a plethora of garlicky foods that even the Garlic Queen herself can’t resist.
“You can’t say no to the food, no matter how hard you try,” Pickford said. “The garlic bread is addicting.”
Pickford said she hopes to “wipe away” any preconceived notions people might have about the pageant and continue to show how talented and intelligent the contestants are. Aside from winning the Queen title, Pickford also won the talent portion of the competition with a performance on classical violin.
She added that young women who want to participate in future Miss Gilroy Garlic Festival Queen pageants should know it’s not a stereotypical pageant and to go into it with the right frame of mind.
“I would tell anybody who was thinking about doing the pageant to have fun, and just be themselves,” Pickford said. “It’s incredible to meet such impressive young women and have the opportunity to learn so much about Gilroy. Don’t psych yourself out because the more fun you have, the more fun the audience will have.”
As for the upcoming festival, the Garlic Queen said it’s a reason to enjoy the City of Gilroy and all it has to offer even more. Whether a native of the town or someone who visits once a year, everyone should appreciate the event and the charities it supports.
“I find it really impressive how many aspects of Gilroy life the festival touches,” Pickford said. “I just love seeing the Garlic logo around town as a reminder of the huge positive impact made during the last weekend of July each year.”