GILROY -- Despite a drop in attendance, the 36th annual Gilroy Garlic Festival generated $1.7 million in revenue over three days -- an almost 8% increase from the previous year's gross.
More than 80,000 guests braved temperatures in the 90s at Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy to taste the fare and watch cooking demonstrations and competitions. Last year 102,066 attended.
Aside from covering operating costs, the proceeds from the volunteer-run festival go to charity and community organizations. In its past 35 years, the festival has raised more than $ 10 million for charity.
Festival president Vito Mercado noted the weekend heat and thanked the more than 4,000 volunteers for their efforts.
"We had some unusually warm weather this weekend, but Gilroy's community spirit really shined most of all," he said.
Cook-off competitors both from the Bay Area and from afar faced off in the heat. A college "Garlic Bowl" on Friday featured chefs from Santa Clara University, Fresno State University and UC Berkeley. Santa Clara University's Chef Josh Grimes and Chef Mark McGowan earned top marks and $5,000 in scholarship funds for the university for their "Telicherry Peppercorn Crusted American Kobe Beef with Tempura Spring Vegetables, Truffled Asparagus and Grape Tomato Confit, and Black Garlic Puree," and "Garlic Godzilla Oshi Sushi."
Saturday's competition for amateur chefs awarded first place and $5000 to Suzanne Clark of Phoenix for her "Sarsaparilla Glazed Wild West Burgers and Southwest Sweet Potatoes." Four professional chefs competed Sunday in an "Iron Chef- style" match for the best dish using ingredients from a mystery basket. Chef Jason Gronlund, of Orlando, won the competition and $5000 for a third year in a row.