Wake Up and Smell the Stinking Rose: Gilroy Garlic Festival

Festival Essentials

Where: Gilroy, Santa Clara Valley, California, USA 
End of July
What’s it about: A celebration of the stinking rose with food and pageantry
How to find Gilroy: during festival season, just follow your nose
Guaranteed not to find: Any vampires

Where’s the Party?

The town of Gilroy, in the lush green foothills of Santa Clara Valley, California, has an unusual claim to fame. Reputed to be the only place on earth where you can marinate a steak at harvest time just by hanging it outside your house, for 22 years the ‘Garlic Capital of the World’ has played host to the biggest annual garlic celebration in the world.


The Gilroy Garlic Festival always takes place on the last full weekend in July.

What Happens at the Gilroy Garlic Festival?

Each year thousands of garlic enthusiasts flock to Gilroy for the festival to take a stroll down Gourmet Alley, where the world famous Pyro Chefs cook up a fiery feast of garlic dishes throughout the day. Hundreds of participants enter their favorite garlic recipe in the grand Garlic Cook Off, and marvel at the Belle of the Bulb, the winner of the annual Queen of Garlic beauty pageant. As well as a whole range of garlic related attractions and novelty goods for sale, there’s entertainment and music throughout the day, guaranteed to make the Gilroy Garlic Festival an event to be remembered in the minds and stomachs of the whole family.

A staggering 30,000 portions of garlic bread are consumed at the festival; other culinary favourites include Calamari, mushrooms and less pleasant recipes like garlic ice-cream.

What’s the History of the Gilroy Garlic Festival?

The Gilroy Garlic Festival owes its legacy to just one man’s passion of garlic, and his faith in the flourishing garlic industry in Gilroy. Dr Rudy Melone, President of Gavilan College, read an article about a garlic festival in Arleux, France. He disputed Arleux’s claim that it was the ‘Garlic Capital’ because it drew 80,000 people to sample the soup at an annual event, and decided it was time that Gilroy staked its claim to the title.

In 1978, Dr Malone invited garlic growers, shippers, processors and food editors to a Rotary Club luncheon, to demonstrate how important the garlic industry was to the Gilroy community. The luncheon was a huge success, and the following year the first garlic festival took place. Not only has the annual event put Gilroy on the map and boosted the burgeoning bulb industry, but also every year festival volunteers raise thousands of dollars for local charities and worthy causes across the United States.



Gilroy Garlic Festival
Official website of the annual bulb bonanza.

Gilroy Visitor
Practical information on visiting Gilroy, during the festival and at other times of the year.


The Totally Garlic Cookbook by Helene Siegel, Karen Gillingham, Helene Seigel pub. Totally Cookbooks
Order this book from now