The Gilroy Garlic Festival and Resilience

When the frightening sound of gunfire rang out at the 41 year old and highly esteemed Gilroy Garlic Festival one witness stated that the loud and rapid sound of rat tat tat was sudden and chilling.  I can only imagine how guests at this beloved festival must have felt as their annual celebration and safe space was violated by this evil act. Once again annual joy quickly became sudden tragedy during a well loved public celebration.

Back in 1978, when the founders of this festival Don Christopher, Val Filice, and Rudy Melone decided to replicate a garlic festival in France in their California town.  After all, the small town in France claimed to be the Garlic Capital of the World and the Californian’s knew that their production of the “stinking rose” was much larger. Therefore, through the leadership of the Italian, Dr. Rudy Melone they set out to stage a party that for four decades has achieved world wide recognition and many local, national and international awards and is now recognised as “The Garlic Capital of the World!”

This phenomenal success in a small town was only possible due to gigantic effort of thousands of volunteers and they will, I am absolutely certain, reflect and then resolutely continue to stage this event that is loved by so many from all over the world.

In 2019 there were over 4000 volunteers supporting this event and their efforts along with those from previous years have raised over 11 million dollars for local schools and not for profit organisations. This is what makes acts of violence such as this one all the more evil as the perpetrators seek to disrupt the good that is possible in our society with their selfish acts.  

In the midst of this violent madness I noticed that a police spokesman for the City of Gilroy used the word reslience as a way to dscribe the efforts of his officials and the Gilroy Garlic Festival volunteers.  In the United Kingdom, where there have been numerous violent acts committed by terrorists in the last half century an even before, the government convenes a group known as COBRA which stands for Cabinet Office Briefing Room A. The Prime Minister convenes this group of officials in the event of a national emergency such as a terrorist attack.  The name COBRA also brings to mind the snake that recoils and then strikes its prey with an often deadly attack.

Conversely, in my neck of the woods, Scotland, the Scottish Government group that responds to natural emergencies is entitled the Scottish Government Resilience Room.  Their aim is to support organisations that work together to build Scotland’s resilience to emergencies and they partner with organisations, both public and private, across Scotland. I firmly believe that the key to disaster reduction and avoidance is a strong reslience plan and network. It is impossible to totally prevent disaster from occurring at an event.  However, festivals such as the Gilroy Garlic Festival are well poised to show even greater resolve and become leaders in resilience planning.  The term resilience is derived from the Latin word resilere that literally means to spring back.

Dr. Roslyn Derrett, the author of “The Complete Guide to Creating Enduring Festivals” understands another key role that reslience plays n local communities that is actually caused by local festivals such as the Gilroy Garlic Festival.  She states “Festivals represent a human ecosystem that fosters resilience in communities. The more one peels back the layers of interaction that occur within community festivals, the easier it is to appreciate how they nurture resilience through sharing the values, interests and traditions central to the host community. Such festivals are thus an expression of local identity and reflect the internal life of the community, not withstanding they are impacted and influenced by external forces.”

Therefore, I am confident that the Gilroy Garlic Festival will resolve to grow from strength to strengh because deep in each volunteer’s heart as well as those of the founders is a profound understanding of how this happy celebration is the key cornerstone of their community foundation and without it their town and indeed the world would be a much poorer place.  I also believe that the current leaders of this event will remember how the founders practiced what I describe in my book of memoirs, “The True Joy of Life” (2019) as the eleventh commandment which is simply “Thou Shalt Work Together to Create a Better World.” 

One of the founders of this remarkable event, Dr. Rudy Melone, who died in 1998 is most probably watching with keen interest from above and with enormous pride as the current day stewards of The Gilroy Garlic Festival continue to work together, once again, to insure that their city retains and even expands their monicher of The Garlic Capital of the World.  


Derrett, R. (2015) The Complete Guide to Creating Enduring Festivals, New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Gilroy Garlic Festival:, accessed 29 July 2019.

Goldblatt, Joe, (2019) The True Joy of Life, Edinburgh, Scotland: Aoibhneas Publishing. 

Resilience:, accessed 29 July 2019.




2 thoughts on “The Gilroy Garlic Festival and Resilience

  • July 30, 2019 at 1:59 am

    Well written and well said.

    • August 4, 2019 at 7:09 pm

      Thank you Alice. And now, further tragedies in Dayton and El Paso. I hope this madness shall end sooner rather than later.


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