Water Cooler Wednesday: An Interview With Garlic Fest Founder Nancy Stewart-Franczak

Nancy Stewart-Franczak has helped make Delray America's Most Fun City

Nancy Stewart-Franczak has helped make Delray America’s Most Fun City

Editor’s Note:

About 10 years ago, Nancy Stewart-Franczak called me up and said she wanted to take me to the “stinkiest” city in America, Gilroy, California. She was organizing a trip to Gilroy to visit their Garlic Festival and she felt the mayor (me at the time) needed to see what the possibilities of the festival were. I was blown away. The entire Gilroy community turned out for the Garlic Fest which was both a financial boom for the town and a great bonding experience for residents. That trip gave me insight into Nancy and how she thinks and works. She’s all about Delray and she believes in the power of events to make money and to bring a community together. We sat down with Nancy on the eve of The Garlic Festival (feb. 7-9) to discuss the event, her philosophy and some surprising impacts that events bring to our community.

Garlic Fest is coming up fast, tell us how the festival has evolved over the years and what to expect this year?
Garlic Fest has grown from:
– an attendance of 2,000 and an opening budget of $10,000 to an attendance of 40,000 and an opening budget of over $400,000.
– from featuring local musical acts to national recording acts
– from a locally recognized event to nationwide recognition! 
– Garlic Fest also brought home five International Awards and 11 state of Florida awards to the City of Delray Beach last year.

What keeps you motivated after so many years and special events?
That’s easy – passion.  I always say that running events is not for the faint at heart.  For me personally, I discovered it’s in my blood.  My favorite part of producing events is opening night, watching all the people arrive and wondering which of our guerilla marketing efforts touched these people. I am also motivated by the fact that we are a fund-raiser for 11 other non-profit organizations in our city.

Why are special events important for Delray Beach?
I feel strongly that special events are one of the main reasons Delray Beach is on the map! 
Beginning with Art and Jazz on the Avenue, street events were initiated to attract visitors into our downtown over 15 years ago.  In the early days, many of us sat on committees to outline goals and visions for Delray.  It is so rewarding to still be a resident and business owner in town and to look around and realize that what we envisioned has come to fruition,  Events attract visitors to Delray Beach and while here, they discover all the treasures in our beautiful seaside town – the restaurants, the shops, the beach, etc.
We know, some folks complain, but is there a reason to keep innovating in Delray, or should the city just stop doing events?
Someone will always complain.  Each event produced benefits business in different ways.  There is no exact fit for all.  Take them away, however, and I am certain that we will realize very quickly the importance of special events in our community.  Other cities that we work with marvel at the success Delray Beach has seen and would love to see successful events produced in their towns.

This festival is interesting in that it raises money for local non-profits. How much has Garlic Fest raised over the years?
As of last year, Delray Beach Garlic Fest has contributed over $430,000 back to the non-profit organizations that staff the event.  This year we are confident to hit the $500,000 mark.
YourDelrayBoca will have full coverage of the Garlic Festival next week. Thanks, Nancy for sharing your thoughts! Visit https://dbgarlicfest.com/ for more info.