FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – The organizer of the upcoming National Garlic Festival in Fresno promises “significant” benefits to the local economy, as Fresno County strives to promote itself as the capital of garlic from the United States.
Event organizer Peter DeYoung says the idea for a garlic festival began five years ago after it was discovered that Fresno County is the nation’s top garlic producer. Data shows that 80% of the nation’s garlic is grown in Fresno County.
Although Fresno County itself lists garlic as number seven on its list of top ten crops by valueDeYoung says garlic has a different appeal than almonds, the number one crop.
“Garlic can be used in a lot of different things, just like almonds, but people don’t crave almonds. They crave garlic.
This garlic craving was evident in 2019 when thousands of people attended the Fresno Garlic Festival at Fresno’s River Park. The Fresno National Garlic Festival in Fresno is scheduled to take place in May at the Fresno Fairgrounds.
“Fresno County really needed — and really needs — some positive things to be known for,” DeYoung said. “I was tired as a Fresnan of hearing the national news about things going on in Fresno County – like we have the worst air in the country, we have the worst crime, the biggest number of car thefts. There are a lot of negative things that have hit us over the years.
Gilroy has long been known as the Garlic Capital of the World – but the Gilroy Garlic Festival will not continue. Organizers cited ongoing issues from the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the City of Gilroy’s prohibitive insurance requirements. DeYoung added that a big part of the problem was how the Gilroy Garlic Festival spent its money.
“They would spend huge amounts of money to bring in a talent from the Food Network – we’re focused on garlic food and garlic education – and have a lot more food.”
Financial assistance comes from private labels and the garlic industry to support the National Garlic Festival in Fresno. Fresno County also invested $225,000 – but support from the Fresno County Board of Supervisors was not unanimous, with two of the board members voting against handing over the money.
“I really think they had other ways to spend those dollars in their district, and I don’t think they were maybe seeing the big picture,” DeYoung said.
Organizers warn that setting up the National Garlic Festival in Fresno will be expensive the first year, but they’re trying to create a family-friendly atmosphere and avoid the business-to-business setup that the California Food Expo was focused on (before its dissolution in early 2020).
Fresno’s National Garlic Day is scheduled to take place May 13-15 at the Fresno Fairgrounds. More than 100,000 people are expected.
“This thing will continue as long as Fresno County is the garlic capital of the United States,” DeYoung said.