Christopher family is making “aggressive investments” to draw in a crowd at 2019 Gilroy Garlic Festival

Jessica Ewing

This year, locals will witness a Gilroy Garlic Festival like they’ve never seen before. In recent years, attendance has declined steadily, whether it be due to the weather, parking, or overall inundation of the festival itself.

“Last year, attendance was down about 20 percent,” said Ken Christopher, executive vice president of Christopher Ranch and grandson of founder Don Christopher. “In a normal year we try to crack about 100,000 people.”

With this huge drop in attendance, the Christopher family is making aggressive investments to really draw in a crowd of people that wouldn’t typically attend the festival. They will be bringing in Tom Colicchio, who owns several high-end restaurants in Las Vegas and New York City as well as sat as a judge for 15 seasons on Bravo’s show “Top Chef.” Their hope is that, as a professional chef who is renowned in the industry, this will really draw in a crowd of people who have an appreciation for cooking as a fine art.

“We’re also being a little controversial,” Ken said. “We’re bringing in more of a media personality — have you heard of Teresa Giudice from ‘Real Housewives’?” The New York Times bestselling author of three cookbooks will bring in a new demographic of people who wouldn’t typically attend something like a garlic festival. Every week, millions of people tune in to see both of these stars, so hopefully they will be a major draw.

Finally, the Christopher family has brought in Colbie Caillat and her country band Gone West to help increase attendance.

“The ultimate goal is to have all three of these personalities in one day (with Caillat playing until 7:30 p.m. and the festival closing at 8 p.m.) because we want to capture one more round of meal service. People can come and have lunch, enjoy the celebrity chefs, then have dinner and one more beer before Colbie Caillat goes on,” Ken told me. “With this, we hope to raise more funds for the community and build more and more excitement.”

I grew up listening to Caillat’s hit songs like “Bubbly” and “Brighter Than the Sun.” She’s definitely someone I never would have expected to be performing a Saturday night concert at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. I believe between the three of these celebrities we’re going to see attendance skyrocket.

“For me and my family personally, my grandfather was one of the founders,” Ken said. “When he goes (to the festival) he’s treated like the mayor. Everybody knows him, he’s waving to crowds … it’s a critical part of his legacy. It is because of him that I am able to have the life that I have, so for me I want to continue to celebrate and champion his life and his work.”

Jessica Ewing is the marketing director for Gilroy Life and will be attending her first Gilroy Garlic Festival.

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