(KRON) — The mayor of Gilroy said the 2019 Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting isn’t the reason why the festival was canceled indefinitely earlier this month. In a statement attained by KRON4, Gilroy Mayor Marie Patane Blankley cited a pre-existing financial crisis and dwindling cash reserves impacting the association behind the festival as the reasons for its demise.
“It is not that tragedy that caused the demise of a 40+ year festival that generated over $12 million for our local nonprofits,” said Mayor Blankley. “Rather, it was the pre-existing financial crisis and spending down of reserves that left a once robust association unable to pay insurance premiums for which no one otherwise would be questioning.”
The mayor’s statement is the latest volley in a back-and-worth between the City of Gilroy and the festival’s organizers, the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association. Last week, when word emerged that the festival had been canceled indefinitely, the association seemed to lay the blame squarely at the feet of the city.
“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 traditional festival for 2022 — and perhaps for the foreseeable future,” said the association in a statement to KRON4.
The renowned festival has been part of Gilroy’s cultural heritage since the 1970s. Thousands of people have traveled for decades to experience the festival and sample various dishes featuring garlic, often cooked by famous chefs. Over the years, the event has raised millions for local charities.
However, the name of the festival was darkened by tragedy in 2019 when a mass shooting took place at the festival. Three people were killed and 17 others were injured. It was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic and last year it was held as a drive-thru event.
The festival board says it hopes to bring the festival back in some capacity, but not this year. Organizers insist it’s the city’s prohibitive insurance costs that are the reason for the festival being canceled.
“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. But they are requiring much more from the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association. And for the record, GGFA does have insurance coverage of 1 Million,” organizers told KRON4.
Gilroy’s mayor disputes these claims and suggests that for the festival to survive into the future, it may need to be held on private, rather than city property.
“It is true that the Garlic Festival Association has been trying feverishly to find solutions they can afford to continuing the festival, but given what they can afford today, private property may be the only solution for the time being,” said Mayor Blankley.
One area where both parties are in agreement is that the festival is an important part of Gilroy’s heritage. Rather the cities and the association will ever be able to come to terms that will see the festival revised remains to be seen.