After four decades of serving decadent garlic fries and other garlic-infused treats, the celebrated Gilroy Garlic Festival has been canceled indefinitely, as first reported by the Gilroy Dispatch Thursday.  

“Due to lingering uncertainties from the pandemic, along with prohibitive insurance requirements by the City of Gilroy, the Gilroy Garlic Festival Board has decided not to move ahead with a festival for 2022 — and the foreseeable future,” the Garlic Festival board of directors said in a joint statement that was shared with SFGATE.  

In the letter, the board of directors expressed their disappointment on the decision, especially after decades of drawing massive crowds to the small Santa Clara County town. The festival, which was first held in 1979, was canceled in 2020 at the height of the pandemic. In 2021, organizers tried to revitalize the celebration with a drive-thru event.

But after posting losses for a decade, the festival became financially unsustainable, organizers said.

Tom Cline, former president of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, told the Dispatch that the mounting price of insurance premiums alone had made hosting the event difficult. Other expenses, such as bussing attendees to the venue at Christmas Hill Park, had likewise placed a financial strain.

FILE — Esperanza Pineda, center left, and Jennifer Smith, center right, sell locally-grown garlic at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy on July 24, 2004. Organizers of the Gilroy Garlic Festival announced that the longstanding event has been canceled indefinitely. 

FILE — Esperanza Pineda, center left, and Jennifer Smith, center right, sell locally-grown garlic at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy on July 24, 2004. Organizers of the Gilroy Garlic Festival announced that the longstanding event has been canceled indefinitely. 

MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ/ASSOCIATED PRESS

“The City of Gilroy does require a minimum general liability coverage level of $1 million for any events occurring in city parks, on city streets, on city sidewalks, in city parking lots, in city buildings, or taking place in any city facility,” the board said in a statement. “But they are requiring much more from the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association. And for the record, GGFA does have insurance coverage of 1 million.”

The Gilroy Garlic Festival received national attention in 2019 after a mass shooting in which three guests were killed and dozens more were injured. The gunman, 19-year-old Santino William Legan, breached security and was armed with an assault-style weapon. A 2020 report by the Santa Clara District Attorney’s Office determined that Legan was shot by police officers before fatally shooting himself.

In the months that followed the horrific event, festival organizers were slapped with an ongoing lawsuit filed by multiple victims who argued heightened security measures should have been implemented at the festival. Planners maintain that the mass shooing three years ago wasn’t a contributing factor in canceling the event in 2022, KCRA reports.

Organizers are already planning to host small-scale celebrations this summer, beginning in June with a golf tournament that will include lunch and dinner. They also plan to host a concert event at Clos LaChance Winery in July.



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