Gilroy Garlic Festival returns with sold out sales for day 1 of reimagined drive-thru event

GILROY, Calif. (KGO) -- The return of the beloved Gilroy Garlic Festival brought a sold out crowd on day one of the two-weekend event.

After two difficult years, the pandemic forced organizers of the 41-year-old festival to reimagine what could be.

The fan favorite food is back, and the festival's famous Gourmet Alley is unlike we've ever seen before.

"We don't have to be out in the hot sun. We still get the food," one diner told ABC7 News, from behind the wheel. "We're in an air conditioned car, pulling up."

The Garlic Festival took a detour this year, serving visitors in a drive-thru fashion.

Instead of pulling up to Christmas Hill Park, diners will circle Gilroy Presbyterian Church for the two-weekend festival.

RELATED: Here's how the reimagined 2021 Gilroy Garlic Festival will work at Gilroy Presbyterian Church

Los Gatos resident, Denise Antonowicz said she dropped the top on her V.W., eager for the return of the big event.

"I brought my 98-year-old mom, Marie, with me," Antonowicz shared. "And we're getting our dinner so we can have that feeling of Gilroy again."

Planning during the pandemic wasn't easy. However, with a sold-out first day, it was well worth it.

"As you come around, you got the barbecue guys doing the pepper steak, and then you got our flame throwers- our pyro-chefs doing the scampi," Gilroy Garlic Festival Association president Tom Cline shared.

He said the team dedicated 10-12 months to planning the event, and spent the last four months figuring out how to best utilize the church site.

Salinas resident Michael Pistono said that from start to finish, the drive-thru experience only took about 10 minutes.

"We're here for some garlic bread and some sausage sandwiches," he added.

Each plate was served with a sense of the Gilroy community. COVID-19 canceled last year's festival. The year before that was the tragic, deadly shooting.

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Gilroy city leaders gathered at the site of the mass shooting to honor the three victims who were fatally shot by a 19-year-old gunman one year ago.

So each car that came through on Friday afternoon was a reflection of the city's resilience.

"It's just amazing how they- all these people volunteering are," another diner dished. "They've had a hard couple years. So, we're here to support them."

Antonowicz added, "This is tradition with our family. We come every year. We missed it last year and we said we're not gonna miss it this year."

Drivers must purchase Garlic Festival favorites 24 hours in advance. No walk-up orders are accepted.

There will also be a farm-to-table dinner and a golf tournament as well.

While this year's festival brings a number of changes, organizers say the event cannot be challenged.

"You can't touch us with what we do out of Gourmet Alley," Cline told ABC7 News. "There's no one else like us."

To visit the official Gilroy Garlic Festival website, click here.

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