Gilroy Grieves

Life resumes in community scarred by shooting

This banner in the downtown area is one coping mechanism residents are using to deal with the July shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Photo: Steve Newvine

This banner in the downtown area is one coping mechanism residents are using to deal with the July shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Photo: Steve Newvine

July 28 is a date that will forever be remembered in the community of Gilroy in Santa Clara County.

On that day, this city of just under sixty-thousand located on the other side of the western Merced County border, endured a tragedy many will never forget.

The story is familiar to most of us. A man enters the Gilroy Garlic Festival and pulls out a gun. Shots are fired.

Two children and one adult are killed while more than a dozen others are injured.

Police were able to fire and hit the shooter, who then shot and killed himself.

The story shocked the nation. But Gilroy’s brush with a deadly gunman was knocked off the front pages shortly after in the wake of shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

One of many roadside stands that line highway 152 going into the City of Gilroy. Photo- Steve Newvine

One of many roadside stands that line highway 152 going into the City of Gilroy. Photo- Steve Newvine

Gilroy is known to most Californians as “that garlic place”.
Agriculture is the backbone of this community with rich soil and ideal growing conditions that produce a bounty of vegetables and fruits.

Roadside stands selling everything from avocados to zucchini, and yes even fresh garlic, are a common site. Today, those vegetable stands remain.

Visitors stop by to pick up whatever is in season.

Some go about their tasks.

Others can’t help but ask the local residents about the tragedy.

City Hall Caption: Gilroy City Hall. Photo- Steve Newvine

City Hall Caption: Gilroy City Hall. Photo- Steve Newvine

The community of Gilroy is coping with the loss of part of that small town feeling many residents have grown to appreciate in recent years.
The annual Garlic Festival was more than something people from outside the area came to see. It was something that defined the community.

“Not only did it raise money for local charities, many non-profits raised funds from the influx of visitors to the festival,” a local resident told me on a recent visit.

Tens of thousands of visitors came to the Festival every July.

Organizers had worked tirelessly over the years to tweak the logistics of moving thousands of people from designated parking areas to and from the Festival site.

Security has been a priority in recent years, and a strong law enforcement presence at the site was noted as a factor that likely kept the number of deaths to three.

The City of Gilroy’s community park where families are winding down their summer vacation days. Photo: Steve Newvine

The City of Gilroy’s community park where families are winding down their summer vacation days. Photo: Steve Newvine

So now, one day at a time, residents touched by the shooting and its aftermath are getting on with their lives.

Some are going to the park, others are taking in a shopping trip, and others are just staying home.

Life may never be quite the same, but it goes on. “It’s really important that we have the Garlic Festival again next year,” one local resident said.“It means so much to us.”

Another crop matures in a field in Gilroy. Photo- Steve Newvine

Another crop matures in a field in Gilroy. Photo- Steve Newvine

Throughout the City on the mid-August afternoon when I walked along the streets, there was a sense that residents are moving on with life.

No one talked about it, but there seemed to be a feeling that the community must get past the tragedy, eventually.

Maybe just not today. Not yet.

Steve Newvine lives in Merced. His book California Back Roads is available at Lulu.com