Shawn Keck

I am honored to serve as president for the 2019 Gilroy Garlic Festival and hope we will see you out at Christmas Hill Park on July 26, 27 and 28 for our 41st annual celebration of all things garlic.

Growing up in Gilroy, I got started volunteering at the Gilroy Garlic Festival as a freshman in high school, picking up garbage and driving the “trash tractor” with my teammates to raise funds for the GHS wrestling program. In later years, I volunteered for South Valley Civic Theatre selling tickets. In 2000, I was roped in by longtime friend (and now past president) Kirsten Carr to serve on the Entertainment Committee and then as Entertainment Committee chair. Like so many fellow volunteers, I got hooked — and went on to serve on the Utilities and Signs committees, then the board of directors, and now I’m proud to be the 2019 president.

What keeps me coming back every year are the amazing, dedicated people we work with to make it all happen. 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.

There are a lot of things to look forward to this year, but I’m most excited about the special Saturday evening concert featuring Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Colbie Caillat and her new band, Gone West. The concert will start at 6 p.m. and is included with festival admission. (Insider tip: seating at the Amphitheater will be limited and there is no seat-saving allowed, so plan to get there early.) In a big change for the festival, we’ve will keep the park open until 8 p.m. Saturday so that guests can enjoy the show, get some dinner, and just relax and soak up the warm summer evening vibe. I can’t wait!

Sunday will also be a big day on the Amphitheater Stage, as the festival celebrates 15 years of partnering with KRTY Hot Country 95.3 to present exciting live performances by up-and-coming country artists. Past acts that have gone on to become country careers include Rascal Flatts, Kip Moore, Michael Ray, Dustin Lynch, and many more. This year don’t miss King Calaway, Waterloo Revival, and Caylee Hammack performing live on “Hot Country Sunday.”

Meanwhile, things will be sizzling over on the Challenge Butter Cook-Off Stage, as we welcome Top Chef head judge Tom Colicchio, who will host the Great Garlic Cook-Off on Saturday and then do his own cooking demonstration. On Friday, MasterChef Season 9 winner Gerron Hurt will preside over both the Garlic Chef Jr. and Champions for Charity cooking competitions. And Sunday, our own local culinary superstar Alexander La Motte, the executive chef at Rosewood CordeValle Resort, will serve as emcee for the Iron Chef-style Garlic Showdown.

Even professional chefs marvel at the delicious food that comes out of Gourmet Alley. This year you’ll be able to order scampi, calamari, pasta con pesto, pepper steak sandwiches, and other favorite dishes all from one window. We hope this streamlined experience (available on the Ranch Side of Gourmet Alley only) will enhance the visitor experience and generate more revenue to share with nonprofit groups.

Every year we have more than 4,000 volunteers who work incredibly hard to earn money for their school sports teams, church groups, and other charities. Since the festival was founded in 1979, we’ve donated more than $11.7 million to these worthy nonprofit organizations. We need to keep the festival going strong so we can continue to support all of the community groups that count on us as their biggest fundraiser of the year.

Pick up discounted ticket bundles in advance at all South Bay Costco locations. Don’t miss out on the excitement! Bring friends and family to experience the world’s greatest summer food festival. I look forward to seeing everyone out at the festival.

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