Archive for the ‘Gilroy Garlic Festival’ Tag

Terror: A Special Edition of The Board Chronicles   3 comments

The Board Chronicles is an ongoing series of articles about the adventures of Mrs M’s Handmade as a vendor at community festivals & craft fairs. Mrs M’s subsidiary, Mr M’s Woodshop, has been approved to create this chronicle for the good of vendorkind.

2 July events … and both get a Special Edition of The Board Chronicles.

Not. Good.

I was a vendor at the 41st Annual Gilroy Garlic Festival. It’s been on our bucket list for many years – long before we were vendors, Mrs M was a great cook. She is a foodie. And if you’ve ever eaten at her table, you know she loves garlic.

Loves. Garlic.

So, of course, we wanted to go to the world’s pre-eminent festival in celebration of the Stinking Rose. Since the event is always in the heat of summer … and Mrs M’s products don’t play well when it’s in the 90s … we decided that I would be the vendor, and Velda would be the tourist. We had a plan. I applied to the Festival, got accepted as a vendor, and we were on our way.

All was good through most of the event, which will be reviewed separately. It’s a 3 day event, and Friday and Saturday passed without incident. We had fun. Sunday was a slower, relaxing day as is typical for a festival. I had just finished with my last customer at 5:35p and sat down to rest for a few minutes before our packing & load out would get started at 6p.

5:41p. We heard some pops. And then some more.

It sounded like gunfire, but some pops didn’t, I thought. No clue what it was. We then saw people running by my booth, screaming. “Shooter! Run!” But … run where? We had no clue what was happening where, so we didn’t move. We did go behind our booth to not be as visible.

5 sheriffs ran by, towards the source of the sound, guns drawn.

A 30-something woman was also behind our booth, with a crying, lost child. The woman called the child’s mother trying to reunite them.

No one knew anything. Hysteria. What? Where?

Terror.

A little after 6p, event organizers (all volunteers!) told everyone to evacuate to the south (away from the gunfire). I had already emptied the cash drawer; I gathered up our electronics and was ready to go. Velda … she picked up her valuables, which were 3 braids of garlic and her purse. Yes, I got to carry 10 pounds of garlic the rest of the evening. But, it was safe.

Velda saved the garlic.

We walked away from our $4,000 Trimline canopy, and my 200+ boards in the wide open booth. We moved with the crowd to the southern-most area of the park, and then eventually were moved to a nearby large concert amphitheater.

We simply abandoned the booth. We walked away from everything, open to the breeze. It’s just stuff.

We. Got. Out.

Organizers were there to help keep people calm and announce what was known (nothing). Velda shot a little video (why?) that shows you what the chaos sounded like.

We were in the amphitheater with several hundred people. Most were normal guests of the Garlic Festival. There were several volunteers, and many vendors as well. Eventually, it was decided that the guests that were in remote parking could walk to a nearby elementary school, and meet shuttle buses there to get them back to their cars. Those with cars on site (us!) would sit tight. That was just getting going … when 6 police moved quickly through the theater, guns drawn. They were going further south. Quickly.

Soon, there was a panic and people started running away … to where? Back to where we were evacuated from? Chaos returned. We had been sitting on a straw bale in the front of the audience area; Velda and several nearby people were now face down on the grass, hiding from … what?

We had no real information.

After that calmed down, we were quickly told that everyone would go to the elementary school. We started walking: six tenths of a mile to the school. We got to the school, and many people got picked up by family members there. Buses were there, taking people to parking lots. We … sat on a curb. We had no easy way to get anywhere we wanted to go. Our hotel was 8 miles away. No family or friends to come pick us up. We heard there were 3 Uber drivers in all of Gilroy, and they would clearly be overwhelmed.

Then we heard from a bus driver (!) that we were all to get on a bus which would go to the remote parking lots the Festival patrons needed, and then could go to Gavilan College, where people like us would get assistance to leave the area.

We got on a bus, and the driver immediately got lost. We turned around, circled the neighborhood, and then finally got to the Green lot … and waited behind some unmoving buses for a while. The driver eventually determined she needed to go around the buses that weren’t moving, and we got to the loading zone. Some people got off. We turned around … and then another party on our bus determined they should have gotten off at the last lot. We had to turn around. Again. The chaos continued.

We got back to the Green lot … but now we had to wait to be interviewed by an officer there that were taking down ID info, phone numbers, and statements. We saw nothing … but they have my cell number if they want to ask me any questions. After the interview, the CHP did arrange for us to get on the bus and get transport to Gavilan College.

Once there, another officer stepped on board to ask if we had seen anything. With that negative answer, we were free to go … where? We had no way to go anywhere and thought that waiting for a cab would probably be hours at best. That’s when a nearby young man raised his hand and called out, “Anyone need a ride?”

Fidel was simply a good samaritan that was helping out. He lived in Gilroy. He and his buddy Neil had their families in a safe place, and they were now offering rides to strangers.

You bet we got in their car. We do rely on the kindness of strangers all of our lives; but it’s always surprising when it’s such a large kindness. Fidel, AKA “Pops,” gathered up 5 strangers, and we proceeded to go to 3 different hotels & a restaurant that the strangers needed to get to. We were the last stop, and discovered that Neil was actually our vendor neighbor. His girlfriend is a 2D artist; the Gilroy Garlic Festival was her first-ever event. We met them Friday; hadn’t realized that he was the boyfriend until we got out of the car.

Kindness.

One passenger in our SUV was 80 feet from the shooting and talked about throwing kids in his booth behind boxes to try and get them undercover. We met another vendor that talked about how the shooting happened right beside the booth they had last year … but they were in a different position this year. But for the grace of God….

We got back to the motel at about 9:15p, 3-1/2 hours after the incident. Velda bought screw top wine from the motel gift shop. We ordered pizza.

We now know that the shooter cut through the perimeter fence to bypass the entrance security for the event. We now know that the incident was contained VERY quickly by the police force on duty at the event. The event site was divided into 5 zones, with officers patrolling each zone. We saw cops on foot, on horseback and on dirt bikes throughout the event, and 3 of those cops responded immediately to the shooter, and killed him with their pistols within a minute of the shooter opening fire with his AK-style rife. The cops were out-gunned, but they ran to the danger. And, perhaps, they ended it right then. Perhaps all of the uncertainty that thousands felt after the shooting was unnecessary, if that idiot shooter was truly a lone, crazed gunman.

Our perspective is that the event organizers did EVERYTHING right. They had a fenced border. They had security. They had a significant police presence. One idiot lone gunman defeated their planning. Unless they build a border wall around the park … what can you do?

As I write this on Monday, we still don’t know if there was a 2nd person involved in the attack (witness accounts varied). We still don’t have access to the park, so our booth and my products are still open to the elements. The Jeep is still on lockdown, and we now have a rental car.

We’re fine. We’re safe. The stuff we left in the park will be taken care of eventually, and I’m very OK with that.

More

Shredded: A Special Edition of The Board Chronicles

Wind. Blows: A Special Edition of the Board Chronicles

It’s My Birthday: A Special Edition of The Board Chronicles

When Nature Fights Back: A Special Edition of The Board Chronicles

%d bloggers like this: