Get Ready for the 2016 Gilroy Garlic Festival!

The 38th annual Gilroy Garlic Festival is coming up on July 29, 30 and 31, 2016! We hope you can join us for “summer’s ultimate food fair,” a three-day celebration that draws visitors from around the globe to enjoy great garlicky food, dramatic Gourmet Alley flame-ups, live entertainment, cooking competitions, and unique arts and crafts. And don’t forget the FREE only-in-Gilroy garlic ice cream!

The toughest part of the day is deciding which garlic-laced dishes you want to eat first. Gourmet Alley is the best place to start. This is where the world-famous “Pyro Chefs” put on their spectacular flame-up show while cooking up garlic-laced calamari in huge iron skillets. Other Gourmet Alley favorites include pepper steak sandwiches, scampi, pasta con pesto, stuffed mushrooms, zesty garlic fried calamari, and sausage sandwiches, as well as garlic fries and garlic bread. Fortunately, two different Gourmet Alley combo plates are available, so you can sample all the dishes and decide which ones you like best. And more than 60 other booths spread across the Festival grounds offer a wide variety of other food and beverages, from crawfish and kettle corn to frozen lemonade and mimosas. 

If you enjoy watching cooking shows on TV, then you’ll definitely want to check out the Gourmet Alley Test Kitchen and the Garlic Cook-Off Stage. There will also be cooking demonstrations and competitions going on all weekend long. Local firefighters and EMTs will compete in the new “Champions for Charity” cooking contest on Friday. Amateur cooks from around the country will compete for the coveted garlic crown (and $5,000!) in the Great Garlic Cook-Off on Saturday. And at high noon on Sunday, local pro chefs will do battle in the iron chef-style Garlic Showdown.

This year, for the first time ever, the Gilroy Garlic Festival is also hosting the “Gilroy Garli-Que BBQ Challenge,” which combines an officially sanctioned Kansas City Barbeque Society contest on Saturday with a Backyard BBQ Ribs Challenge for amateurs on Sunday.

There’s also live music going on at three stages throughout the weekend. There really is a little something for everyone, including rock ‘n roll, country, jazz, blues, reggae, and swing. KRTY 95.3 will present hot country music stars Brooke Eden, Drew Baldridge, and The Last Bandoleros, all appearing on Saturday on the Amphitheater Stage. And kids have their own entertainment stage, featuring singers, magicians, puppeteers and more. 

The Garlic Festival Arts and Crafts areas showcase unique, high-quality creations from over 100 artists, while the Garlic Mercantile stores offer shirts, gourmet products, cookbooks, wine glasses, and many other Festival souvenirs. Younger guests will find live entertainment, rides, and hands-on arts and crafts activities in the Children’s Area. Visitors can even learn how to make their own garlic braid and take it home as a unique souvenir!

This year visitors can take Caltrain to the Gilroy Garlic Festival on Saturday, July 30, or Sunday, July 31. Round-trip tickets must be purchased online in advance for the special event “Garlic Train,” which departs from the San Jose Diridon Station at 10:00 am and includes shuttle bus service from the downtown Gilroy station to the Festival entrance.

Hope to see you July 29, 30 and 31 at the 2016 Gilroy Garlic Festival!

EXPLORE MORE>>  Go to VisitGilroy.com and book a hotel room today so you can stay and explore Gilroy Gardens, Lumination, award-winning wineries, Gilroy Premium Outlets, and more!

#ShareSLO Photo of the Week: Festival Mozaic

Festival Mozaic, founded in 1971, is an annual summer event in San Luis Obispo and surrounding areas that honors several genres of music, including jazz, classical, and opera. Featuring music discussions, food and, of course, music, this year’s 12-day event continues through Sunday.

Here Project Trio, a chamber group with an edge, performs at Sea Canyon. Upcoming events for the festival include On Stage with Schubert (Thursday); Mozart in the Mission (Wednesday) and the festival finale (Sunday).

Thanks to @SLOProvisions for sharing this photo. If you catch a Festival Mozaic show this week, please remember to post photos or videos with the ShareSLO hashtag.

Lumination Lights Up Gilroy Gardens

We can’t wait until July 16! That’s opening night for Lumination at Gilroy Gardens, the spectacular night-time festival that celebrates Chinese history and culture in a whole new light. This evening-only event features colossal light displays, an artisan marketplace, authentic Chinese food, and live performers from China. 

The festival will be open nightly (6-10pm) through August 14 and then on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights through November 27. Separate tickets are required for Lumination, and rides will not be running during the evening hours.

As guests stroll through the 26 acres of Gilroy Gardens at night, they will discover dozens of light displays that illuminate over 2,000 years of Chinese history, mythology, and tradition. One of the largest and most unique displays is the Porcelain Dragon, an enormous serpentine sculpture that’s over 180 feet long (longer than a Boeing 757!) and constructed from more than 60,000 porcelain plates, cups, and bowls, all painstakingly wired together by hand. This is a remarkable work of art and engineering that you really have to see up close for yourself.

Another highlight is the Bejeweled Qilin (mythical creatures with the head of a lion, the eyes of a tiger, the antlers of a deer, the body of an ox, and the scales of a dragon), which are composed of thousands of tiny bottles of colored water that sparkle brilliantly when illuminated at night. 

Several of the light displays feature historic Chinese landmarks, including the Great Wall of China and Terracotta Warriors. Standing near the park entrance will be the towering Nine-Heaven Pagoda. And a recreation of Beijing’s Temple of Heaven will soar high above Coyote Lake. Signs next to each light display provide interesting information about each subject.

An animated display in Coyote Lake brings to life the inspirational Chinese legend of Carp Jumping Over the Dragon Gate. Larger-than-life Imperial Peacocks will hold court under Gilroy Gardens’ signature Basket Tree. The Monarch Greenhouse will be transformed into a Panda Sanctuary filled with the lovable black-and-white bears in a serene bamboo forest. 

In addition to the light displays, Lumination also includes an Artisan Marketplace, where Chinese artists and craftspeople showcase their unique handmade wares, and visitors can  enjoy authentic Chinese food. Nightly performances at the Lakeside Amphitheater include acrobatics, the ancient art of “face-changing,” and traditional Chinese juggling acts.

Lumination’s massive light displays were designed and constructed by master artisans from Zigong, China, home to the original Chinese Lantern Festival. Since June, a team of 50 experienced designers, carpenters, welders, and electricians from Zigong have lived and worked in Gilroy to construct the exhibits on-site. Additional artists and performers from China will stay in Gilroy for the duration of Lumination, which runs through November 27.

This night-time event is suitable for all ages—and makes for a fun outing for singles and couples as well as families with kids. If you’re coming in from out of town, book a budget-friendly hotel room so you can stay and go wine tasting, shopping, golfing, hiking…or just exploring all that Gilroy has to offer!

Don’t miss out on this spectacular once-in-a-lifetime experience!

See the Lumination page at VisitGilroy.com for more details.

Celebrating Solvang: See Shrek The Musical Here Thru July 31st

You and your family simply must make plans now to see Shrek The Musical here in all its joy at the outdoor Solvang Festival Theater. Performed by acclaimed actors of PCPA (Pacific Conservatory Theatre), all the beloved characters you know from the Oscar-winning movie are brought to life on stage in this Tony Award-winning adventure: the reluctant hero Shrek, the Donkey, Fiona, a short tempered bad guy, a cookie with an attitude, and more fairy tale misfits–be ready to cheer and be transformed! Performances are Tuesday-Sunday now thru July 31. Tickets are available online at www.pcpa.org or at the Theater box office located at 420 Second Street. On July 20 (Solvang Third Wednesday) adult tickets are 25% off (and be sure to ask about seasonal senior, student, or child pricing—yet remember, kids under 5 are not admitted into the theater.) Solvang Festival Theater is within easy walking distance of hotels, restaurants and local attractions. As Shrek would say, “For your information, there’s a lot more to ogres than people think.”

San Luis Obispo old buildings share city’s unique past

The top of the Anderson Hotel

If you peer through the window at the Anderson Barbershop in San Luis Obispo, you’ll glimpse into an era that existed long before apps, drones and smartphones. But while the faded barber pole, wooden chairs and antiquated radiator seem fixed in another time, the expression “if these walls could talk” applies to the shop’s unique history.

Old buildings in San Luis Obispo aren’t just interesting to look at — they also house memories that play a vital part in the evolution of the community.

While the 160-year-old city has many historically significant buildings and monuments, here’s a quick look at some of the more interesting, easy-to-find ones:

ANDERSON BARBERSHOP, 954 Monterey Street

In the 1930s, the road to San Simeon wasn’t so easy to navigate. So celebrities invited to visit William Randolph Hearst’s estate would often stop over at the Anderson Hotel, which had a large lobby and the convenience of a Prohibition-era speakeasy. The Anderson Barbershop, owned by Levi Bond, was located at the bottom of the hotel. There Bond’s son, Courtney,carried an autograph book, in which he collected signatures of some of the famous guests who stopped by for haircuts.

Today Courtney Bond’s autograph book (owned by his son, Alan) reads like a guest book of former A-list celebs that rolled through town, including Clark Gable; Marlene Dietrich; H.G. Wells; Jack Dempsey; Walt Disney, Harpo Marx; the Three Stooges and Joan Crawford.

While the hotel, built by Jeff Anderson in 1922, now houses apartments, the barbershop remains, quietly adding to its history.  

AH LOUIS STORE, 800 Palm Street

In 1861, a Chinese immigrant named Wong Ong arrived in San Francisco, en route to his permanent home in San Luis Obispo. There, Capt. John Hartford dubbed him Ah Louis and enlisted Louis’s help in recruiting laborers to build a railroad route over the rugged Cuesta Grade.

The store Louis opened catered to many of those Chinese laborers, offering items like salted duck eggs, sea cucumbers and dried abalone. The building also served as a bank, a supply center and employment office in the thriving Chinatown area.

Ah Louis died in 1936 at the age of 94, but his store is a reminder of the Chinese workers who helped connect the north and south ends of the county.

CARNEGIE CITY LIBRARY, 696 Monterey Street

In the final 18 years of his life, Andrew Carnegie, a Scotsman who became a wealthy American industrialist, gave 90 percent of his fortune to charities — more than $350 million. (That’s close to $8 billion by today’s standards.) In the early 1900s, those gifts included 1,681 libraries he commissioned throughout the United States.

In 1905, a Carnegie-gifted library was built in San Luis Obispo. For 55 years, the Carnegie served as the city’s library. In 1956, after the library outgrew the building, the historical society moved in. The building was damaged by heavy rains in 1995, but it was retrofitted between 1998 and 2001.

Today it houses the History Center of San Luis Obispo County, which features a research room, collections and publications.

RAILROAD DISTRICT, 1011 Railroad Avenue

Those celebrities that visited Hearst often arrived at the Southern Pacific Railroad Train Depot, where Hearst guests would be escorted in a cab driven by Steve Zegar. Decades later, it’s likely that the railroad district looks even better than it did then, with many restored buildings.

Some of the highlights include the Spanish Colonial-style depot, completed in 1942 and restored in 1988. The Southern Pacific Freight Warehouse, built in 1894, has since been restored and made into the San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum. And the water tower, built to service trains during World War II, still stands among palm trees, not far from the tracks.

DEL MONTE CAFE, 1901 Santa Barbara Avenue

Looking like a building you might find with a train set, the Del Monte was built for $600 around 1920 (dates vary) as a barbershop. After that, it became the Del Monte Grocery, which it remained for many years. But eventually, time caught up to the building, which was later condemned.

Luckily, it was rebuilt, with a vintage exterior that fits perfectly with the railroad district. Since 1981 it has operated as a cafe featuring historical photos, rounded booths and bar stools that channel its soda fountain era.

MISSION SAN LUIS OBISPO DE TOLOSA, 751 Palm Street

In 1769 — years before the United States declared independence — a Spanish expedition led by Gasper de Portola became the first Europeans to see the San Luis Obispo area. In 1772, as settlers began to suffer from starvation, missionary president Junipero Serra decided to have a mission built in San Luis Obispo, partly because of the ample food supply — namely, in the form of grizzly bears.

Today, the mission, restored during the 1940s, marks the center of town. Still a working parish, it features artwork that pre-dates the building, having survived fires, floods and earthquakes.

While the grizzlies are long gone, bronze bear statues outside the mission serve to remind visitors what drew Europeans to San Luis Obispo.