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Garlic Festival remains in tune with Emerald Regime |

Garlic Festival remains in tune with Emerald Regime

Morgan Hill’s storied Emerald Regime marching band and Gilroy’s annual Garlic Festival have gone hand in hand for decades, each standing the test of time and remaining South County staples.

Many Morgan Hill residents may not know this, but the Emerald Regime has been omnipresent in the three-day event’s famed Gourmet Alley, where a crew of the marching band’s volunteers cook up and serve—what else—but mushrooms for thousands of festival-goers.

“Morgan Hill has all the mushroom farms and that’s what we’re known for. (Besides), we couldn’t do acorns,” said Brad Rentfrow, who is taking over the Gourmet Alley reins this year as a lead cook along with other chair members Deena Schwegler, Matt and Delia Harrison, Erick and Janae Tuttle, and wife Sue Rentfrow.

The Regime have long prepared stuffed and marinated mushrooms in the same gigantic outdoor kitchen as the renowned “Pyro Chefs,” who put on a spectacular flame-up show preparing garlic-laced calamari and scampi in huge iron skillets. Along with hundreds of volunteers from various organizations, they all make the official food of the Garlic Festival. Other Alley favorites include pepper steak sandwiches, scampi, pasta con pesto, sausage sandwiches, garlic fries and garlic bread.

“Our family has been very involved with the Garlic Festival,” said active volunteer Jeff Salvotti, whose four children at one time or another donned the emerald and gold of Live Oak High School’s marching band.

Salvotti, a former Emerald Regime board president and publicity chair, continued the long tradition of fundraising through volunteer hours at the Garlic Festival. But, after years of sweating it out in Gourmet Alley, Salvotti—and cooking partner Kim Ross—have turned over their duties so others can enjoy being part of the effort.

“Time to pass the torch to the next generation. I’ve done it for a long time,” said Salvotti. “It was fun. I enjoyed it. There’s a lot of camaraderie. It’s a lot of work, especially on hot days. But when you’re moving, you’re not thinking about it. When you sit down at the end of the day, that’s when you feel it.”

The 2017 Gilroy Garlic FestivaL is right around the corner, held from July 28-30, at Christmas Hill Park (7050 Miller Ave.). Tickets can be purchased in advance at or at the festival entrance.

“I’m hopeful that people from Morgan Hill come out and help support Morgan Hill and get some mushrooms,” Rentfrow said. “It’s not just a Gilroy event.”

Renfrow, who has two daughters, Brigid, a percussionist in the Emerald Regime, and Brianna, an Emerald alumna now at San Jose State University,  learned the garlic ropes last year mirroring Salvotti.

“It gets pretty hot,” Rentfrow admitted. “It was great working together with the other band parents and working with the Garlic Festival. It’s a lot of fun.”

Rentfrow, who helps organize to fill 200 volunteer time slots over the weekend, estimated the Emerald Regime crew cooks up about half a semi-truck worth of mushrooms for the three-day festival.

Rentfrow said the Garlic Festival is the band’s biggest fundraiser other than weekly Bingo at Britton Middle School. “It’s a big deal for us.”

The Emerald Regime raises about $10,000 annually by working Gourmet Alley to help purchase new uniforms, replace instruments and cover transportation fees. The current band director is Jason Locsin, a 2002 LOHS and Emerald Regime alumnus.

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