GILROY (CBS SF) — Organizers of the world-famous Gilroy Garlic Festival didn't know what to expect Friday after the event was cancelled in 2020 during the COVID outbreak and came to an abrupt end in 2019 after a deadly mass shooting claimed the lives of three festival goers.
They got their answer as crowds once again flocked to the celebration from as far away as the Los Angeles area to get sample of the food.
But the festival was a lot smaller this year and has a very different format because of COVID. There was no casual strolling through the streets, sampling the garlic infused delicacies from the food booths. It was a drive-thru located at Gilroy Presbyterian Church. People order the food online the day before and pick up it the festival in their cars.
The smaller festival means a condensed menu with some of the most popular items including pepper steak, shrimp scampi, garlic fries, and garlic bread.
"The scampi, I missed for a few years now. So I made sure I ordered three," said Gilroy Resident Candace Vansambeek.
Tom Cline, president of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, said 2020's cancellation was the first in the festival's 41-year history. And in 2019, a gunman killed 3 people and injured 17 festival-goers.
"It is an honor, we feel, to be here, to just support it and just come back to it because there's a lot of healing, too," said Kelley Hess, who drove about five hours with her husband Alec and their two kids from Simi Valley. "This is my childhood. Every Summer, my family vacation started at the Garlic Festival."
"I drove all the way from Fresno," said Lonnie Wells, a festival supporter who used to attend school in Gilroy.
"One of the sandwiches that I have, I'm sending by car to another friend of mine that's taking it to my daughter in Pasadena tonight," said customer Millette Litzinger.
Neither COVID nor a mass shooting scared them away. For most, they said it's not just a festival, it's a Summer tradition.
"We had some expectations, but people have exceeded our expectations," Cline said. "So it's really positive."
The festival is opened this weekend and next weekend.
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