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Gilroy Garlic Festival, Gilroy, California, July 29-31, 2011

From the venerable Parade Magazine to contemporary social networking vehicles, the Gilroy Garlic Festival (www.gilroygarlicfestival.com), July 29-31 in Christmas Hill Park, continues to maintain its status as America’s foremost summertime food celebration.

“We will entertain 100,000 guests, many of whom are annual attendees who choose to return because we’ve demonstrated a standard of performance,” said 2011 Garlic Festival Association President Kurt Svardal. “People expect both new attractions and the superb quality of food that remains a topic of their conversation throughout the year.”

The 33rd Garlic Festival, presented by Raley’s, Bel Air Markets and Nob Hill Foods, will feature Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” favorite Angelo Sosa, country singing sensation Kip Moore, a dramatically renovated Amphitheater that will host 13 of the event’s 44 live concerts, and a new entrée from the pyro chefs on Gourmet Alley created for the Facebook generation, the Alley Wrap.

“A new generation of young adults first enjoyed the Festival in the children’s area,” Svardal said. “Now they are in their 20s and we need to remind them of this summertime destination. We’ve established a social networking footprint. Our Recipe Committee introduced a Facebook cooking challenge to reach this consumer and Gourmet Alley chefs have created the Alley Wrap to specifically attract and satisfy younger appetites.”

Members of the public were invited via Facebook to post a video of themselves preparing a favorite recipe. Two finalists were determined through online voting, and that duo will compete onstage in the Cook-Off Theater at 2 p.m. July 29.

The culmination of So You Think You Can Cook With Garlic? will precede the July 30 finals of the Festival’s signature activity: the internationally contested Great Garlic Cook- Off presented by Scope, featuring eight amateur chefs from across the United States. The July 31 Garlic Showdown will pit four prominent Bay Area executive chefs in an iron chef-style competition for a $5,000 top prize.

Sosa, voted by viewers as the Season 7 favorite on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef” series, will serve as Master of Ceremonies for Sunday’s Garlic Showdown as well as perform a cooking demonstration following Saturday’s Great Garlic Cook-Off.

“Last year we unveiled an expanded Cook-Off Theater that includes two Jumbotron screens and increased shading so that spectators can more comfortably obtain a better view of recipe preparation,” Svardal said. “It was extremely well-received by our guests.

“This year the Festival has partnered with Don and Bill Christopher and Christopher Ranch to renovate the Amphitheater on the Park side,” Svardal added. “This will be an incredible concert venue. The improvements in the Amphitheater are permanent and will provide the community a marvelous year-round entertainment setting in Christmas Hill Park.”

Headlining the 2011 entertainment card will be an appearance by country music’s hottest recording artist, MCA Nashville’s Moore. The Georgia native’s current hit single, “Mary Was the Marrying Kind” will be the highest-rated song on the country charts by a Festival performer at the time of their appearance.

Moore’s July 30 Vineyard Stage concert will serve as the hub of a Hot Country 95.3 KRTY Radio triple feature that includes new recording groups The Dirt Drifters and Brother Trouble.

The Festival will again present a diverse lineup of entertainers featuring Top 40, jazz, blues, rock and roll, classic rock, big band sounds and folk from three venues, including the Gazebo Stage. The much-acclaimed Children’s Area, redesigned in 2009, will also feature continuous entertainment as well as games, rides and attractions for the preteen audience. Both the Park and Ranch sides will host a total of 100 arts and crafts vendors from across the United States.

The centerpiece of the Festival remains Gourmet Alley, where pyro chefs prepare and serve the renowned annual cuisine of garlic-enhanced calamari, scampi, chicken stir-fry, peppersteak sandwiches, sausage sandwiches, stuffed mushrooms, garlic fries and garlic bread. In addition to unveiling the Alley Wrap, the chefs have also returned spaghetti noodles to an old favorite: pasta con pesto. The Alley Wrap offers steak and shrimp enhanced with rice, cilantro, cumin, aioli and garlic, enveloped in a very portable garlic-infused lavash. The new item is priced at $5. Also new for Gourmet Alley in 2011 are discount Combo Plate tickets offering a $2 price reduction when purchased with admission tickets on the Festival website. Another solid offer is the covert information shared by the Gourmet Alley chefs in the Demonstration Stage located adjacent to the Alley on the Ranch side. The pyro chefs will conduct hourly exhibitions during which they will reveal their preparation secrets.

Organized and operated by an army of 4,000 volunteers, who will eclipse the $9 million mark in funds raised for local nonprofits by the conclusion of this year’s celebration, Festival directors also anticipate the elimination of the event’s perennial nuisance.

The Festival Board of Directors has reached an agreement with Procter & Gamble Co. to distribute free samples of the latest offering from Scope mouthwash at a booth adjacent to the Cook-Off Theater throughout the event. The new product will hit store shelves nationwide in August. Scope will unveil the name of its new breath enhancement on the eve of the Garlic Festival.

Scope’s newest technology convinced P&G that three days, 100,000 hearty appetites and 6,000 pounds of fresh California garlic would provide an effective demonstration. “We’ve entertained nearly 4 million guests in 32 years of service,” Svardal said. “Despite our worldwide popularity, we are constantly admonished for returning otherwise happy visitors to society with ‘inappropriate breath.’ Solving this problem has been foremost on our agenda since the Gourmet Alley pyro chefs ignited their first flame in 1979.”

The 2011 Gilroy Garlic Festival will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 29-31 at Christmas Hill Park in Gilroy. Admission costs $17 for adults, $8 for seniors ages 60 and older and $8 for children ages 6-12. Children under age 6 will be admitted free. Parking is free.

Tickets offering a $2 discount on all admissions are also available at Raley’s, Bel Air and Nob Hill Foods locations throughout Northern California and at gilroygarlicfestival.com.

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