FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) — The organizer of the upcoming National Garlic Festival in Fresno promises “significant” benefits to the local economy, as Fresno County works to make itself known as the garlic capital of the United States.
Event organizer Peter DeYoung says the idea of having a garlic festival began five years ago following the discovery that Fresno County is the number one garlic producer in the country. 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 top ten list of crops by value, DeYoung says garlic has a different appeal to almonds, the number one crop.
“Garlic can be used in a lot of different things, so can almonds, but people don’t crave almonds. They crave garlic.”
That craving for garlic was clear to see in 2019 when thousands attended the Fresno Garlic Festival at Fresno’s River Park. The National Fresno Garlic Festival in Fresno is set to take place in May at the Fresno Fairgrounds.
“Fresno County really needed – and really needs – positive things to be known for,” said DeYoung. “I got tired as a Fresnan hearing the news nationally about things happening in Fresno County — like we have the worst air in the country, we’ve got the worst crime, the highest auto theft. There are plenty of negative things that have hit us through the years.”
Gilroy has long been known as the garlic capital of the world – but the Gilroy Garlic Festival will not continue. Organizers cited lingering issues from the COVID-19 pandemic along with prohibitive insurance requirements by the city of Gilroy. DeYoung added that a large part of the issue was the way the Gilroy Garlic Festival spent its money.
“They would spend enormous amounts of money on bringing in a talent from the Food Network — we’re focussing on garlic food and garlic education – and having a lot more food.”
Financial assistance is coming from private brands and those in the garlic industry to support the National Garlic Festival in Fresno. Fresno County has also put in $225,000 – but support was not unanimous from the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, with two of the board members voting against handing over the money.
“I really think that they had other ways those dollars could have been spent in their district, and I don’t think that they were perhaps seeing the big picture,” said DeYoung.
Organizers warn the National Garlic Festival in Fresno will be expensive to set up in its first year, but they are working to create a family atmosphere and avoid the business-to-business setup that the California Food Expo focussed on (before it dissolved at the start of 2020).
Fresno’s National Garlic Festival is scheduled to take place from May 13 through May 15 at the Fresno Fairgrounds. More than 100,000 people are expected to attend.
“This thing will go on for as long as Fresno County is the garlic capital of the United States,” DeYoung said.