Gilroy Garlic Festival more than just local event

It pumps millions to charities

By Scottie Andrew and Saeed Ahmed, CNN
Copyright 2019 CNN

(CNN) - The Gilroy Garlic Festival is more than just a weekend of concerts and cooking demonstrations. It's a beloved Northern California institution that has raised millions for local nonprofits.

The culinary festival attracts more than 100,000 visitors every year to the small city of Gilroy, which calls itself the "garlic capital of the world," according to organizers.

Established to celebrate garlicky foods and the tight-knit Gilroy community, the event has raised more than $11.7 million for local charities since 1979, organizers said. In 2018, organizers donated more than $255,000 to 170 different groups, including churches and school sports teams.

This year -- its 41st -- the festival featured celebrity chefs Tom Colicchio of "Top Chef" and Gerron Hurt of "MasterChef," as well as a headline performance from Colbie Caillat and her band, Gone West.

On the final day, however, three people were killed and at least 12 others injured when a gunman opened fire Sunday.

Garlic grower Christopher Ranch said the shooting had "shattered" the community stalwart.

"Today the unimaginable happened. Our community has worked for over 41 years to bring together our hometown of Gilroy. And in a series of selfish acts, the unspeakable has shattered what we've always known to be a safe and united cultural experience. We are still gathering information, but we want our hometown and the world to know that we will rise above this, that we will come together, and always champion the Gilroy community," the company said on Facebook.

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