Gilroy community won't hide during healing process, sellout crowd expected during rodeo weekend

GILROY, Calif. (KGO) -- The Gilroy community is coming together for its first major event since the Garlic Festival, which ended in the shooting death of three people.

The Gilroy Rodeo is back in town and organizers are expecting a sellout crowd for rodeo weekend. Early events kicked off Wednesday afternoon.

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There are plenty of reminders throughout Gilroy Rodeo grounds-- shirts and signs that read, "Gilroy Strong."

The strength of the small city was tested less than two weeks ago, in the deadly Garlic Festival shooting.

"That was crazy and that was sad," Mari Sharp told ABC7 News. "But this coming so quickly after that Gilroy Garlic Festival, I think this is exactly, exactly what we need."

Sharp will be singing the National Anthem to crowds coming together for the first time since 6-year-old Stephen Romero, 13-year-old Keyla Salazar and 25-year-old Trevor Irby were killed.

"It was pretty emotional," Gilroy resident Lori Gallagher said. "It kind of hits home for me, my husband is law enforcement so it does hit home. I think it's just going to take some time to heal."

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The stands on rodeo grounds are able to hold 6,500 people.

"I don't think it's going to slow anyone down from coming out here," Gallagher said. "I think we are Gilroy strong and I think it's going to be a great show this weekend. I think everybody should come out for it."

She continued, "I feel completely safe out here. This is such a great environment. It's such a great family-fun place to be. I'm not nervous one bit."

Organizers are expecting a sellout crowd for the weekend, with enhanced safety measures to match.

Security teams said over the last six months, they've prepared contingency plans to respond to an active shooter situation.

"Since the events occurred, we have revisited our plans and increased security for this event," Public Safety Director, Kurt Ashley told ABC7 News.

RELATED: 12-year-old victim describes being shot, hiding during Gilroy Garlic Festival

More officers on patrol and more eyes on the perimeter will be most visible to rodeo-goers.

Guests on Wednesday say they're not worried, and although the city is still healing, they refuse to stay in hiding.

Sharp said, "There's always something going on that really challenges our existence as Americans and our freedoms."

Go here for a full list of event at the rodeo.

Go here for full coverage of the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting.
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