Gourmandizers of all ages, sizes and shapes love the Gilroy Garlic Festival. But there is one bulb-shaped individual who may just love the yearly celebration of this potent vegetable more than anyone else. Those who regularly attend the annual spice fest know him as “Mr. Garlic”—or “Garlic Dude”—but friends and family call him Gerry.

For the past 29 years, the 73-year-old Gerry Foisy has been a part of the Gilroy Garlic Festival. Walking around in his white garlic bulb costume, his cowboy hat decorated with garlic bulbs and his trademark Birkenstocks, he is impossible to miss.

Next year, however, he will be missed. This year’s garlic gathering will be his last.

Originally from Ohio, Gerry moved to Gilroy in the late 1970s. It wasn’t long after tying the knot with his wife, Jeanne, in 1983, that he landed the role of a lifetime. One day in early 1987, Jeanne, who was working for Gilroy Foods, overheard her boss’ secretary say that she was on the hunt for someone to fill the role of “Mr. Garlic.”

Without hesitation Jeanne piped up: “Gerry would do that. Oh, heck yeah, he’d do that in a heartbeat.” When she got home from work that evening, she told Gerry: “Oh by the way, I volunteered you to be Mr. Garlic at the festival.” He accepted his new role with gusto.

“We’re a little crazy, a little silly, we just enjoy doing it,” Jeanne says.

Foisy is as much a part of the fabric of Gilroy, as the Garlic Festival itself. During his time living in Santa Clara County’s southernmost city, he has worked as a real estate agent, a supervisor at Gilroy Foods, and as the owner and operator of a property maintenance company. For the past 18 years, Gerry’s been maintenance manager at Advent Group Ministries, an organization whose mission is to empower people and break the cycles of abuse and addiction. Foisy says he takes pride in helping young men and women regain control of their lives, just as he is proud to have held down the role of Mr. Garlic for so long.

Rumor has it that Foisy’s son, Carl—a former Metro employee and local branding consultant—may take his father’s place. This prospect also makes the elder Foisy proud. He says he’d love to see Carl step into his shoes—or sandals—and carry on the tradition.

Gilroy Garlic Fest
Jul 29-31, $15-$33
Christmas Hill Park, Gilroy