Gilroy Garlic Festival in Stockton? Promoter says no

The Gilroy Garlic Festival could happen after all, as new festival organizers are pitching to be hosts of the annual event. But original Gilroy planners, however, say not so fast.

The CEO of the Noceti Group, and the San Joaquin Asparagus Festival said they want to host the Garlic Festival in Stockton. The announcement was made Sunday in a Facebook post.

"We heard the extremely sad news that the Gilroy Garlic Festival will not be holding their annual big Garlic festival," the post said. "We just couldn’t let that happen!"

The Gilroy association which has run the 42-year-old tradition, however, said the claim that the festival is happening again and in Stockton, no less, is false.

Ken Christopher, Executive Vice President of Christopher Ranch and festival organizer said no one in the governing board of the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association has heard of, or is affiliated with the Noceti Group.

"It looks like the Noceti group, at best, is ignorantly trying to use a news cycle to promote a future Stockton-based garlic event, and at worst, is using the national press surrounding my grandfather’s and my hometown’s legacy to self-promote," said Christopher.

"If the Noceti group is earnestly trying to have a garlic promotion in their hometown, god bless them," he continued. "But claiming to bring back the Gilroy Garlic Festival, without comment or cooperation from our Association, Board, President, or Christopher Ranch is malicious."

Christopher called it, "A bit of a vulture feeding off a wounded corpse. It’s a bit of a parasite. It’s a bit of a tick."

SEE ALSO: Gilroy Garlic Festival returns with drive-thru format for 2021

"I’m not here to steal their festival. I’m here to help out, and keep things alive here," said Stockton developer Tony Noceti. Earlier on Monday, Noceti Group said they are currently setting up for their Asparagus Festival May 6-8, and are a "bit busy right now."

Noceti said his experience with non-profits, available land, and in-place organization can pull of the Gilroy Garlic Festival too -- with the caveat it take place 110 miles away, in Stockton.

"I spoke to some of the people that (have) worked with the garlic festival in the past. But I guess there are some higher ones up the ladder that are a little upset. Maybe they should call me. Because I’m more than happy to work with people," he said.

"Our community has been through enough, and doesn’t need misinformation from those that aren’t affiliated with our annual homecoming," said Christopher. "We’re here to promote garlic everywhere. If Stockton wants to have the Stockton garlic festival, we’re one hundred percent behind it. The problem is he tried to use our hometown and my grandfather’s legacy to self-promote."

Last week the Association said the pandemic and the skyrocketing insurance premiums were the driving reasons to cancel the event. They said the city was requiring that the festival have more insurance than the minimum general liability coverage of $1 million. Gilroy Garlic Festival said a dispute concerning greatly increased insurance premiums after 2019’s deadly mass shooting were factors. 

"It is a frustration because we know, we have the same passion. We know what it represents to Gilroy, but also like you say, the greater Bay Area, and the surrounding…throughout the state," festival board member Tom Cline said during an Aprril 22 interview with KTVU.

The City of Gilroy also said they have no prior knowledge nor any information concerning the Noceti Group's announcement.  

It’s been a disappointment for long-time Gilroy residents.

"It’s a fab festival. Everyone loves it. People come from all over. I’ve been going to it for some 30-something years," said Gil Barry.

Although currently there’s no festival, the City of Gilroy plans a garlic tournament, and a garlic dinner as a type of bridge to a hoped festival return in 2023.

Noceti said he’s holding a news conference Thursday, to better hash out his plan to host the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Stockton.