Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Gilroy: A "Capital" City

On the outskirts of Gilroy (CA), we passed a field with bags scattered over its entirety. We asked around town and learned the function of these bags.

Today's quiz: What did the bags contain? (Answer at the end of today's entry.)

Driving north on US highway 101 about ten miles from our campground in San Juan Bautista, we are greeted by signs that relate to the present identity of this city of nearly 50,000.

From the town's webpage (ci.gilroy.ca.us/cityofgilroy): "With the arrival of Japanese farmers about World War I, garlic was grown for the commercial market in large quantities. The Gilroy Garlic Festival was started in 1979 and has an annual attendance of over 130,000. The ...community has earned the title of Garlic Capitol of the World."

At Garlic World, it is possibe to have one's face emblazoned on a clove of garlic.

Other businesses that capitalize on the garlic theme are shown here.

Spanish colonization began in 1800 and followed the area's first inhabitants, the Ohlone Indians. The town's namesake, John Cameron, using his mother's maiden name of Gilroy, arrived in Monterey in 1814. He was baptized at the mission at Carmel in 1817 and took the name of Juan Bautista Gilroy.

The town has had an interesting history of identities. "Following the gold rush years, pioneers flooded the fertile Gilroy area with farms of every size and description. Early settlers engaged in stock raising and grain farming and soon what was then called Pleasant Valley became known as the hay and grain capitol of California....

"The Gilroy Hot Springs were discovered in 1865 and developed into one of the leading resorts on the West Coast....

"The village was incorporated as the Town of Gilroy in 1867, and in the 1860s and '70s, Gilroy also became known for horse raising.

"In the 1870s Gilroy became known as the tobacco capitol of the United States and had the world's largest cigar factory which produced over 1 million cigars each month.

"Dairying and cheese making became the industry of the 1880s with the arrival of Swiss and other middle-Europeans. This earned Gilroy the title of Dairy and Cheese Capitol of California.

"The arrival of the French prune in the 1890s led to acres of hay and grain being turned into orchards. Apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, pears, plums, and all kinds of nut crops were grown along with prunes. During the 1920s and '30s Gilroy became known as the Prune Capitol of California.

Today, a drive down the tree-lined main street of the Garlic Capital of the World passes a sculpture "...entitled 'The Handshake,' one of three sculptures by artist Marlene Amerian. It commemorates early commercial development, capturing the final moment of a deal between banker Thomas Rea and landowner Electa Ousley circa 1872."

Quiz answer: We were told that the bags contained onions and were being dried. Some reading led us to the following: "Spanish onions for immediate sale or short-term storage are mechanically undercut and may be green-topped by hand or machine and partly cured in sacks or boxes in the field prior to packing" (U of Minnesota webpage, www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/ cropsystems).

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