These photos of the Garlic Festival before the shooting are happy — and haunting

Posted at 5:50 PM, Jul 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-29 20:29:04-04

Families spent the day posing with giant replicas of heads of garlic, listening to music and tasting all-things garlic.

Their photos from the Gilroy Garlic Festival showed smiling faces enjoying the weekend together. But as the day waned on Sunday, the pop, pop, pop of gunshots from an assault-style rifle shattered the peaceful feeling at the community festival.

The happy images and memories they created before the shooting will be forever tainted with what happened next. Here are some of their stories:

She was celebrating her birthday when gunfire rang out

Krissy Clemmons and her boyfriend were sampling free garlic cloves when they heard gunfire.

The couple had enjoyed some wine at the beverage tents earlier and Clemmons said she was relieved that her boyfriend was there to help them escape. They jumped over a fence and ran into a nearby neighborhood.

“There was a little boy running with us and he had no shoes,” Clemmons told CNN on Monday. “I asked him if those were gunshots or fireworks and he said gunshots.”

Clemmons had been at the festival Sunday to celebrate her 29th birthday, which is on Wednesday.

“It’s defined me going into my thirties,” she said. “I felt safe the rest of my twenties but going into my thirties, I guess I don’t feel safe.”

The Berkeley resident said she feels grateful that she was wearing sneakers so she could run. She also thanked a woman named Nakia, who had also escaped the festival, and offered the couple a ride in her friend’s car back to the parking lot.

“If we didn’t have on gym shoes and if we didn’t hop that fence … we would have been stuck in there,” she said.

Before shots rang out, Clemmons had enjoyed her first time at the festival. She’s disheartened of what this means for the community of Gilroy.

“This will be synonymous with Gilroy and that’s not fair,” she said. “This was their thing. It just ruined the legacy of a small town.”

The security guard made an offhand remark

An innocuous comment by a security guard, the type of thing they usually say as they shepherd people through, stuck out.

“Please leave your guns and knives at home. Please do not bring them inside,” the guard said.

“I truly believe nobody would imagine something like this would ever happen at a food festival,” Julia Saravia told CNN on Monday. “Now thinking back at that comment, it gives me the chills to think someone had this satanic plan to actually enter the festival to solely kill as many innocent people as possible.”

She noticed a lot of law enforcement officers at the festival. “It was comforting to see a high volume of police presence,” she said.

Saravia drove to the festival from Oakland with her parents. It was her first time there and she was excited to try the food.

Right away she felt a sense of family and community as she rode a charter bus from the parking lot with other attendees, she said.

“It was a nice way to interact with other festival-goers before entering, it seems very family-oriented,” Saravia told CNN on Monday.

Inside the tents on the hot Sunday afternoon, Saravia and her parents enjoyed talking to other people and trying the different foods. They left about an hour before the shooting, she said.

“It was really fun, and it was beautiful seeing everyone bonding over the food,” she wrote in an Instagram post after the incident. Her heart goes out to the families who were affected by the shooting.

Friends texted worrying after they saw her photos

A barrage of texts inundated Sukhraj Beasla’s phone, with friends checking to make sure she and her family were safe.

Beasla, her parents and her siblings had gone to the festival together for a day of family fun. They left an hour before the shooting happened. Tired of the heat, they took refuge in a cool outlet mall. When they checked social media, they learned about the shooting.

“That could have been us if we hadn’t been hot and a little bit uncomfortable and rushed to get out,” the 38-year-old told CNN. “If the weather had been perfect, the circumstances could have been different.”

The family of six was excited to do all things garlic together after their parents had raved about their previous four experiences at the festival. Beasla and her family drove two hours from Clovis to spend the day there on Sunday.

The whole family loves garlic, Beasla said. They ate garlic bread and even tried the famous garlic ice cream. Beasla stopped short of entering a contest in which the prize was a year’s supply of garlic.

To commemorate the family outing, they smiled in front of a giant head of garlic with flames flickering atop it.

Before everything happened, they had already been thinking about going back next year.

“Who would shoot up a garlic festival?” Beasla asked. “It’s so amazing the smell of garlic in the air. Just why?”