Jim Shanklin, for one, first spotted Americans' fondness for festivals when he started a Web site, www.festivals.com, in 1995. Back then, the site had just three listings. Not any more.
Says Shanklin, "We have more than 38,000 festivals worldwide, about 26,000 in the U.S. We get 6 million hits a month, which translates to 200,000 actual people using the site every month."
Festivals run the gamut from elaborate to down-home. Often, all that's at stake is local bragging rights. But, incredibly, when you add it all up, it's a $14-billion industry. And the best part is that the profits usually go right back into local community projects and charities.
Sometimes, a festival can even turn a town around. Case in point: Gilroy, Calif., where the primary crop is garlic. And Don Christopher, a local garlic farmer, thought garlic was getting a bad rap. So he and fellow garlic grower, Val Felice, launched the Gilroy Garlic Festival. There, they serve up sure-fire crowd-pleasers like scampi and calamari, and the garlic steak hero has earned Val Felice the nickname "The Godfather of Garlic."
The Garlic Festival has made the whole town a winner. In its 23 years, more than $5 million from the event has gone to local organizations. The same volunteers lend a hand year after year, says Christopher.
Gilroy even pioneered a volunteer system thats become a model for festivals around the country. Proceeds are divvied up among churches, clubs and school groups, depending on how many hours their volunteers worked.
This summer, 128,000 garlic lovers put Gilroy on the map, and 200 million more Americans are heading off to festivals and fairs in their necks of the woods.
Whatever your state,
There must be something to celebrate!
200 million of us can't be wrong.
The U.S. is a festival all summer long!
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