CowParade Prepares to Stampede Into San Luis Obispo

Artist and Cuesta College student Michelle Watson helped kicked off CowParade SLO last summer with her her cow, which has been used in promotional events.

This September, a herd of crazy cattle will be corralled into the meadow outside the Madonna Inn, the building’s famously pink motif providing a fitting backdrop for what will be a zany public art event.

Imagine a cow striking the famous Marilyn Monroe pose from “The Seven Year Itch,” balancing on a surfboard or hanging out with a giant honey bear bottle.

That’s just three of the cows you’ll see at CowParade SLO.

CowParade, launched in Chicago in 1999, has been featured in cities worldwide, including Paris, Madrid, New York City and Tokyo. Famous CowParade painters have included rocker Ronnie Wood, director David Lynch and the band Radiohead. And CowParade cows have been purchased by celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Ringo Starr and Elton John.

“The Herd” will come to San Luis Obispo and its surrounding cities this fall, but work to create the widespread event is already in the works.

For each CowParade event, sponsored artists paint life-sized cow statues, which are displayed throughout the community for several months. At the conclusion of the event, each cow is auctioned off, with proceeds going to charities.


Morro Bay High School students are helping local artist Ted Emrick create his cow, “Not So Gaudi.”

CowParade SLO will feature 101 cows — a nod to Highway 101, which connects the northern and southern ends of the county. The cows will be unveiled at a VIP event at the Madonna Inn on Sept. 16 and to the general public the following day. From there, the cows will pull up steaks — er, ah, stakes —  and move to cities like San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach, Atascadero and Paso Robles. For seven months these public art pieces will become selfie magnets — and the subject of udderly endless cow puns.

In April, CowParade cows will be mooooved (we warned you about the puns) to an auction, with funds benefiting ArtsObispo, the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County, the California Mid-State Fair’s Heritage Foundation and charities chosen by sponsors.

The event is expected to draw thousands of visitors, giving tourists an opportunity to see beautiful cows in several of the county’s diverse cities and towns.

Along the way, there will be a few fun surprises, but we won’t reveal those just yet: We want to — ahem — milk the suspense.







Gilroy Garlic Fries Now at Select McDonald’s Locations!

In May 2016, McDonald’s began offering Gilroy Garlic Fries at select locations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Using a purée made with world-famous garlic from Gilroy, California – the Garlic Capital of the World – the fries are being served in four restaurants in San Jose and Santa Clara.

The new fries are made-to-order in McDonald’s kitchens, where restaurant employees toss French fries in stainless steel bowls with a purée mix that includes chopped Gilroy garlic, olive oil, parmesan cheese, parsley and a pinch of salt. The garlic fries are part of a trend at McDonald’s to experiment with regional flavors and food on its menu.

The garlic in McDonald’s new Gilroy Garlic Fries is grown in Gilroy, California, approximately 80 miles south of San Francisco and nicknamed “The Garlic Capital of the World.”  The fourth-generation, family-owned Christopher Ranch in Gilroy is the largest garlic production operation in the United States and grows the garlic used in the Gilroy Garlic Fries—as well as the 2+ tons of fresh garlic used each year at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

McDonald’s French fries are one of the most-iconic items on the menu. The fries are made with North American-grown, premium potatoes that are partially fried and flash frozen. Once they arrive at the restaurant, they are cooked in a Canola oil blend and flavorings and served crispy and hot. McDonald’s French fries have zero grams of trans fat per labeled serving.

“As many people know, McDonald’s is committed to listening to our customers,” said Chef Michael Haracz, Manager of Culinary Innovation at McDonald’s USA. “We’re proud of the work done by local franchisees and the regional team to create this menu item with locally-sourced garlic, and we look forward to introducing Gilroy Garlic Fries to our customers in the Bay Area.”

“The response from our customers has been very positive,” said Nick Vergis, Co-op President, San Francisco Bay Area. “We enjoy giving our customers options and bringing this local flavor to our world-famous French fries.”  

Pending positive customer feedback, the Gilroy Garlic Fries will be available at nearly 250 McDonald’s restaurants across the San Francisco Bay Area in August.

The 4 Bay Area McDonald’s locations offering Gilroy Garlic Fries are:

  • 3509 Homestead Rd., Santa Clara, CA
  • 2191 Monterey Rd., San Jose, CA
  • 1398 W. San Carlos St., San Jose, CA
  • 4838 San Felipe Rd., San Jose, CA

So get out there and get your garlic on! 

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McDonald’s Gilroy Garlic Fries are good—but for the ultimate garlic gourmet experience, you’ll have to come to the world-famous Gilroy Garlic Festival (July 29, 30 & 31)! 

Can’t make it for the Festival? Don’t despair. You can find garlic in Gilroy all year long!

Vote Travel in 2016!

As the 2016 presidential election season progresses, heated debates will ensue from cable news to the kitchen table. While partisan politics may get divisive, there’s one thing that anyone—blue, red or purple—can get behind this year:  the power of travel in America.

That’s why, as part of National Travel and Tourism Week (NTTW) 2016, May 1-7, our industry is campaigning for travel, and encouraging everyone to join us in supporting “Travel ’16.”

Figuratively speaking, travel is the perfect presidential candidate:  it’s a job creator, it’s pro-family and it’s good for our health. Here’s why: the $2.1 trillion travel industry supports one in nine American jobs—research even demonstrates that 2016 election-related travel is already a boon for local economies, especially in states with presidential primaries. The travel industry provides good jobs in every single Congressional district in the country, and is in fact one of the top 10 employers in almost all 50 states. Americans save an average of $1,147 amount in taxes each year because of travel-related tax revenue in their communities.

The economic impact is just as strong at the state and local levels. In California, total travel-related spending in the last year increased 3 percent to $121 billion. And while low gas prices brought down overall state taxes generated by visitors, state and local tax revenue still grew to $9.7 billion. In the Central Coast region (which includes Gilroy and South County), visitors spend a total of $7.7 billion each year, generating over $277 million in local tax revenue and impacting over 76,000 jobs.

Travel also greatly benefits our relationships, families, and children. Kids who travel with their families are more likely to attend college, and earn more as adults. And it’s good for our well-being—numerous research studies have confirmed the positive health effects of travel and time off, from reducing the risk of heart disease to decreasing depression. That’s a platform anyone can support! 

So get out there and travel! It’s good for you, good for the country, and good for the local community too.

Gilroy makes a perfect “home base” for a sunny California getaway. Plan your trip at

The Man Who Loved Trees

Gilroy Gardens founder Michael Bonfante always loved trees—especially BIG ones. He found them to be both calming and inspiring. In the 1970s, while still managing the family supermarket business, Michael opened his own nursery to grow and sell big trees. About that same time, he began thinking about building a park that would inspire young people to appreciate the beauty of trees.

Over the years, Michael travelled the globe to visit other public gardens. After working through lots of conceptual ideas and running the numbers, he realized that he would need to add rides to his tree-themed park to attract enough visitors and make his vision a reality. 

As he continued to refine his plans, Michael learned about the ailing “Circus Trees” in nearby Scotts Valley. These whimsically grafted sycamores, box elders, ash and Spanish cork trees were originally grown by Swedish immigrant Axel Erlandson starting in the 1920s. Although they had gained some notoriety over the years (even appearing in a 1957 Life magazine article), the “wooden wonders” had suffered after Erlandson’s death. So, in 1985, Bonfante engineered a rescue operation. He carefully dug up the trees, hauled them on trucks through the Santa Cruz mountains, and lovingly transplanted them on his park grounds. 

In 2001, Bonfante Gardens opened to the public. Now known as Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park, the park features over 40 fun family rides and attractions and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. But Michael’s passion for nature remains evident in every detail at the park. He required that “anything manmade gives way to nature.” So pathways wind around large boulders, and all the rides were designed to fit around the trees (instead of the other way around!).

Today, visitors arriving at the park are greeted by ten of the original Circus Trees in Dixie Cup Plaza, including “Double Hearts,” “Picture Frame,” “Revolving Door,” and “Spiral Staircase #1.” The park’s signature “Basket Tree” is the centerpiece of Main Plaza and is also featured in the Gilroy Gardens logo.  Michael’s personal favorite, this fascinating specimen was shaped from six American Sycamore trees, all carefully grafted together to resemble a woven basket.

Throughout the park’s 26 acres, guests encounter other remarkable Circus Trees, including the “Four Legged Giant,” “Arch,” “Zig-Zag,” and “Oil Well.” The park’s newest attraction, Water Oasis, even features the “Mini Zig-Zag,” a baby Circus Tree grown and grafted by Michael Bonfante himself!

The Circus Trees continue to attract a lot of well-deserved attention, but they are actually just a very small percentage of the 10,000 trees found throughout the park’s 26+ acres. The most planted tree in the park is the Coastal Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). These trees are the tallest in the world and can grow as tall as 364 feet.  One of the largest trees at Gilroy Gardens is the Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica) located behind the Red & White Stage on the edge of Coyote Lake. The Artichoke Dip ride was built around a massive Coast Live Oak (Quercus agrifolia), the only tree in the park that remains in its original location. 

Different themed gardens throughout the park highlight different kinds of trees from around the world. Claudia’s Garden (named for Michael’s wife) features a variety of conifers and Japanese Maples. The Rainbow Garden ride winds through several animal-shaped topiaries. And the Monarch Garden greenhouse is home to unusual tropical and sub-tropical trees, including the Triangle Palm (Neodypsis decaryri), Sausage Tree (Kigelia pinnata), and New Zealand Christmas Tree (Metrosideros excelsus).

Staying true to Michael Bonfante’s original vision, the park includes a number of interactive learning exhibits where children—and their grownups—can learn more about trees and the environment. More than just another theme park, Gilroy Gardens remains a remarkable testament to one man’s vision and enduring passion for trees.

Learn more about Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park here.

2016 #SCWildflowers Photo Contest!

2015 submission by @sarahlovebot

WHAT: To celebrate spring, wildflowers and our beautiful Santa Cruz State Parks, we are running a photo contest on our Instagram, @VisitSantaCruz, so we can share the wildflower love!

WHEN: Contest begins Tuesday, March 22, 2016 and ends Monday, April 25, 2016

WHERE: Any Santa Cruz County State Park & throughout Santa Cruz County

HOW: Simply snap a picture of some wildflowers while you are out and about and share your photo on Instagram (or Facebook, or Twitter – we’ll monitor those too) using #SCWildflowers! At the end of the contest a winner will be chosen and will receive a $25 gift certificate to the Nature Store at Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, a $25 gift certificate to any Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks Park Store, 4 tickets to ride a steam train at Roaring Camp Railroads, ½ day double kayak rental through Kayak Connection and some awesome Santa Cruz swag!

Helpful Hint:

Join Rancho Del Oso Nature & History Center for their annual Wildflower Weekend event, April 23 & 24, 12-4pm – it’s the perfect opportunity to experience the wildflowers of spring and take those contest photos!