The cancellation of the 42nd festival made many of us feel some sadness for our loss

People relax by the Garlic Cook-Off Stage.

Editorial is the opinion of Morgan Hill Life

Despite the challenges of COVID-19 that have forced the cancellation of various public events including the Morgan Hill Mushroom Mardi Gras, the Gilroy Garlic Festival and the Taste of Morgan Hill, let us stand strong together for our nonprofits.

The Gilroy Garlic Festival closing’s in 2020 will hurt fundraising in the South Valley the most. For more than four decades it has brought people together in a family-friendly party celebrating the herb that made the city a famous destination for foodies. The thousands of volunteers — many of them Morgan Hill residents — have made the summer event a success year after year and added to the pride people felt for their community. These volunteers raised funds for more than 150 nonprofits. Their spirit of camaraderie infused into the festival’s ambiance. It’s that spirit that brought people from all across America — and even from other nations — to enjoy themselves with family and friends under the South Valley sun.

This year, however, the cancellation of the 42nd festival made many of us feel some sadness. Silence hung heavy over the grounds at Christmas Hill Park at a time when there should have been tens of thousands of people gorging on garlic. There were no Gourmet Alley lines as people waited to savor their shrimp scampi and other garlicky delights. There were no cook-offs for guests to see the best chefs in the South Valley — and some celebrity chefs, too — whip up garlic-spiced cuisine for prizes and bragging rights. There was no music performed at the stages to entertain the guests with a variety of talented artists.

A year ago, the people of the South Valley were shocked by the tragedy of gun violence during the closing hour of the festival. After the mass shooting that killed three young people and injured 17 visitors and vendors (including from Morgan Hill), the men, women and children of the South Valley came together to show their solidarity under the #GilroyStrong banner. The festival organizers promised the community that the 2020 event would be held to continue the tradition started by its founders, Don Christopher, Val Filice, and Rudy Melone. Residents of the South Valley refused to let the festival’s reputation be tarnished by the senseless attack.

No one had a hint during that time when hope for the future brought healing to the community that half a year later a pandemic would start spreading a dangerous disease around the world. The threat to public health forced crowded gatherings to be cancelled all across the globe. That included the Gilroy Garlic Festival, which was originally scheduled to take place July 24, 25 and 26.

Prior to COVID-19, the festival organizers had planned to honor those who were killed and injured at a special memorial. At the one-year anniversary of the shooting, it would serve to encourage the healing of the people impacted by that violence. Because of the cancellation of the festival, however, that ceremony did not happen with the crowds gathered together. The Gilroy Strong Resiliency Center, a program of the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office, instead hosted a virtual memorial July 28 to remember the victims of the shooting and honor the first responders who took action to save the lives from the carnage.

The first-year anniversary following a loss of life can often be a hard time for individuals. Resurrected  memories can let loose deep sadness. No doubt, the tears will fall for many of us as we recall the violence that caused us to fear for not only our own lives, but also those of friends and family members. This is a natural way we process the feelings we face. Human beings are born knowing how to grieve. Kids cry by nature so they can feel better. It helps them let go of the pain, to release the energy of emotions. Crying helps us to lessen the weight from our shoulders.

Positive expressions of grief are also helpful to us as a community. Communal grieving gives us a power of healing that we cannot get when we grieve alone. Through the process of joining together and showing as a group an acknowledgment and validation of a tremendous loss, communal grieving empowers us to experience a higher level of healing.

It is deeply and profoundly freeing. Failing to express our feelings as a community leads to chronic tension and dissatisfaction in life — and even aggression and violence.

Joined in a spirit of tenacity, we will stand strong during this one-year anniversary of a tragedy. The aftermath of the shootings at last year’s festival showed us that when we stand together, that’s our finest hour. We will not only survive but thrive as we grow in our community spirit while dealing with our personal pain.

Stay safe, and we hope in July 2021 we will all enjoy the garlicky good that is the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

Morgan Hill Life Editorial
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