More than $12 million has been distributed locally in the past 41 years

Photo courtesy Gilroy Garlic Festival
A couple enjoys food from Gourmet Alley at last year’s Gilroy Garlic Festival, held at Christmas Hill Park from July 28 to 30 this year.

By Donna Lane and Marty Cheek

For 41 years, the Gilroy Garlic Festival has brought food-fans’ attention to the South Valley’s odorous herb as it raised more than $12 million for local nonprofits and schools. The small army of volunteers make the annual event fun for visitors to enjoy garlic-laden cuisine from Gourmet Alley, cooking demos and competitions and fantastic music on the various stages.

Shawn Keck served as president for the 2019 Gilroy Garlic Festival held at Christmas Hill Park July 26, 27 and 28. Growing up in Gilroy, he got started volunteering at the Gilroy Garlic Festival as a freshman in high school, picking up garbage and driving the “trash tractor” with his teammates to raise funds for the GHS wrestling program. In later years, he volunteered for South Valley Civic Theatre selling tickets.

“What keeps me coming back every year are the amazing, dedicated people we work with to make it all happen,” Keck said. “Together, we basically get to build Disneyland in a week — then tear it down. It’s an amazing event to be part of. Everyone is working for the same reasons: to raise money for the community and throw a party for nearly 100,000 people.”

This year more than 4,000 volunteers worked hard to earn money for their school sports teams, church groups, and other charities.

They come from all walks of life. And their passion for helping their community is the uniting factor. Morgan Hill Life can’t spotlight all of them, so we provide a sample of a few who have given of their time and energy over the years:


Donna Lane