Kyle Garrone of Far West Fungi, pictured May 25, 2019 at the Morgan Hill Mushroom Mardi Gras, hosted a vendor booth dedicated to mushrooms and their importance to the region's agricultural economy.
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The Morgan Hill Mushroom Mardi Gras festival—which has raised and awarded more than $1.5 million in scholarships during its 41-year tenure—will see some big changes for 2023, including a name change, admission fees and extensive safety upgrades, according to event organizers. 

This year’s festival, scheduled for May 27-28 in downtown Morgan Hill, has been rebranded as the Morgan Hill Mushroom Festival. Plus, out of increasing safety concerns throughout the events industry since a deadly mass shooting occurred at the 2019 Gilroy Garlic Festival, city staff and Morgan Hill Police have requested a number of costly safety improvements on the downtown site, according to a press release from the nonprofit Morgan Hill Mushroom Mardi Gras, Inc. 

These new measures include perimeter fencing around the entire festival layout—an area that encompasses the Community & Cultural Center and its parking lot, and portions of Monterey Road and Dunne Avenue. 

The city has not yet issued a permit for the 2023 festival, but officials are “actively working on security requirements based on the application submitted by” the Morgan Hill Mushroom Mardi Gras organization, City Manager Christina Turner said in a statement. 

“Since the tragic Garlic Festival shooting in 2019, the face of festivals is continually changing and many festivals did not survive after the two-year hiatus from the pandemic in 2020 and 2021,” says the press release. The Mushroom Mardi Gras returned to Morgan Hill in 2022—its most successful year since it moved to its current location in 2004—but city staff told organizers that would be the festival’s last year in its longtime downtown site. 

The board of directors last year began looking at other locations that could potentially host the 2023 festival, but none met the organizers’ needs, says the press release. The board members met again with city staff and the Morgan Hill Police Department to present a plan to keep the festival downtown. 

“We proposed a new name, layout and theme that would emphasize Morgan Hill as the Mushroom Capital of the Western United States and focus more on a food, wine and entertainment festival,” says the press release. 

MHPD reviewed the festival’s new plan and offered an assessment based on the U.S. Department of Justice’s framework “Planning and Managing Security for Major Special Events: Guidelines for Law Enforcement.” The local police department’s review included strict requirements for continuing to host the festival downtown. 

“The preliminary assessment listed two pages of requirements we would have to fulfill, increasing our guest safety costs for city services from $33,000 in 2022 to approximately $90,000,” organizers said. 

The ballooning safety costs, in turn, forced festival organizers to charge admission to the annual event for the first time since 2004, the press release continues. The admission cost is $15 for general admission. Seniors and military members can get in for $10, and kids younger than 12 can attend for free. Online ticket sales will start in late February, and coupons will be available for $5 off for advance ticket sales. 

Mushroom Mardi Gras Event Director Sunday Minnich said the festival will not increase the cost for arts and craft and retail vendor booths for 2023 because “a big part of the success for the festival is dependent on attracting quality vendors for our attendees to enjoy a wonderful shopping experience.” 

She added that so far, vendor interest in the 2023 event has increased since last year, and organizers expect to sell out of vendor space. 

“I would also like to add that we are thankful to both the City of Morgan Hill and the MHPD for allowing us to continue holding this long-standing community festival downtown this year, by assisting us to adapt to the required conditions for all large public events going forward,” Minnich said. 

Turner added that events in general in recent years have been required to meet increasing safety requirements based on “best practices…to support the increased safety of those attending the events and our residents.” These include more police officers on staff at events, more private security, improved traffic security, enhanced event surveillance and increased public safety staging requirements. 

In 2019, a mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival claimed the lives of three festival attendees and injured 17 others. The festival has been accused in court of failing to provide adequate security for the event. The Garlic Festival has not resumed in its previous layout and location at Christmas Hill Park since 2019.  

The scheduled activities and attractions at the 2023 Mushroom Festival won’t change significantly from the Mushroom Mardi Gras, organizers added. The event still includes more than 150 arts and craft and retail vendors; wine tasting; gourmet food booths with mushroom inspired dishes; chef demonstrations; the Mushroom Expo; strolling musicians; and the kids’ Munchkinland. 

Live entertainment includes a lineup of bands on two stages, the press release continues. The May 27 lineup includes local favorites, Shane Dwight and the Joe Sharino Band. The May 28 headliner is The Party Starters. 

The Morgan Hill Mushroom Mardi Gras is a nonprofit whose mission is to “provide a fun and entertaining family festival with an emphasis on promoting the mushroom and educating consumers about the health benefits of mushrooms, all while financially awarding scholarships to high school seniors who live in the boundaries of the Morgan Hill Unified School District,” says the press release. The nonprofit also awards monetary donations to school groups and clubs. 

Since it was founded, the festival has awarded about $1.5 million in scholarships, and more than $550,000 to local nonprofits, school groups and youth sports. Since the Mushroom Mardi Gras began a mini-grant program in 2008, it has also awarded $57,000 to elementary and middle schools for special projects. 

And this year, the board of directors voted to award $18,000 in scholarships to local high school seniors, says the press release. 

Anyone interested in donating to the MMG scholarship fund or sponsoring the 2023 festival can call 408.778.1786, or download the “sponsor benefits package” at 

The 2023 Morgan Hill Mushroom Festival will take place 10am-7pm May 27 and 10am-6pm May 28. 

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.


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