For three days in July, Gilroy, California locals know that their town will be taken over by people looking to experience one of the hottest events of the summer: The Gilroy Garlic Festival. Started in 1979, this festival celebrates the flavor-packed little bulb known as garlic. Everything from live music, face painting, garlic fries and ice cream make an appearance here, and keep festival-goers coming back every year. Here are the ten things you can’t miss at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

Don't Miss These 10 Fun Activities At The 2017 Gilroy Garlic Festival

Image credit: Eric T/Flickr CC-BY 2.0

1. Children’s Area

Bringing the kids along to the festival? The Children’s Area is the perfect place to take them. Kids can get their faces painted, play in bounce houses, and blow bubbles while you enjoy some relaxing time in the shade. Hands-on activities are also provided by Home Depot and kid-friendly food and live entertainment will keep the kids happy throughout the afternoon. Head to the tree-shaded Mulberry West section of the park to enjoy the Children’s Area.

2. Champions for Charity

In this Chopped-style cooking event, teams of two active or retired law enforcement, fire department, or EMS professionals square off to create garlic-inspired dishes. Each round, a team is eliminated, leaving just two at the dessert round to compete for a $3,000 prize for their charity of choice. This challenge is not one to be missed; see which team wins and how they incorporate garlic into each and every dish!

3. Miss Gilroy Garlic Festival Queen Pageant

Leading up to the festival weekend, young ladies between the ages of 18 and 24 are eligible to enter the Miss Gilroy Garlic Festival Queen Pageant. Contestants compete prior to the festival and the winner is chosen on a weekend in mid-May. The winner then gets to hang out with fellow festival-goers all weekend long and make appearances while enjoy some garlicky treats herself. If you see her, say hello!

Image credit: Allan Chatto/Flickr CC-BY 2.0

4. The Great Garlic Cook-Off

Known throughout the country, this cooking competition produces some great recipes every year. Out of all applicants’ recipes, 50 are sent to a professional food consultant who whittles that number down to the eight most delicious-sounding recipes. Those eight chefs are then invited to prepare their recipes in front of judges at the festival. Just a little after noon, the winner is chosen and awarded with a crown of garlic. Oh, and a whopping $5,000. Second and third place are given $2,500 and $1,000, respectfully, and all other contestants receive $100. This is a cook-off you won’t want to miss.

5. Arts and Crafts Booths

At the Gilroy Garlic Festival, you’ll get a chance to wander through tents and booths filled with hand-crafted jewelry, ceramics, and much more. Each year, the festival accepts applications from over 100 artists and craftsmen across the country to display and sell their work to festival-goers. Check out both sections of the Arts and Crafts booths (the Park Side and the Ranch Side) and pick up something to commemorate your experience at the festival.

6. Garlic Showdown

What might sound like a wrestling event is actually a cooking competition for professional chefs. Each chef is given a secret ingredient, revealed when the competition begins, and must use it to create two entrees and side dishes. After all dishes are presented and judged, the winner will walk away with the title of Garlic Showdown Champion and a $3,000 prize. See the best chefs around compete in this fun event!

7. Live Music

Despite the name, this festival’s fun isn’t exclusive to garlic. With three stages and strolling musicians, live music will surround festival-goers throughout the weekend. Jazz, blues, rock n’ roll, swing, reggae, and country are just the beginning of the sounds you’ll hear at the Garlic Festival. The best part? Enjoying this music is included in your admission ticket, so you won’t have to pay more to watch a performance.

8. Art Poster Contest

Every year, artists across the nation are invited to create an original piece of art representing the Garlic Festival. Artists who submit their artwork compete for a chance to have their work reproduced as a high-quality, limited edition poster that will then be sold at the upcoming festival. Rules and an application can be found on the festival’s website, so get creative and see if your work can become the official poster of the next Gilroy Garlic Festival.

Image credit: Allan Chatto/Flickr CC-BY 2.0

9. Garlic Fries and Ice Cream

These two things are so unique, they needed their own category. Garlic fries are hard to beat when you want something savory. The golden, crispy potatoes are tossed with minced garlic and oil (or butter) and parsley to create a sensational flavor you won’t soon forget. Don’t miss your chance to try some garlic ice cream at the festival, head to Gourmet Alley and get your fix for this unique treat!

10. Gourmet Alley

What would the Gilroy Garlic Festival be without all the delicious, garlicky food? Gourmet Alley is the place to try every type of garlic-themed food you’ve ever thought of. Garlic bread, zesty fried garlic calamari, scampi, and stuffed mushrooms all have a garlic kick and can be found in Gourmet Alley. There are also other food options that leave out the garlic, and drink booths for you to quench your thirst.

Ready to go? Find a place to stay in Gilroy.

This article was written by Julianne Aiello.