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Gilroy Chamber of Commerce



The Toad Suck phenomena

chair of the board ERIC GEBHARDT • Hilton Garden Inn

EVERY YEAR, on the first weekend in May, Conway, Arkansas holds a Past chair Toad Suck Festival. The event features ERIC HOWARD • Bruce’s Tire, Inc. toad races, people dress up in toad chair of the board-ElecT costumes, and there is a lucky winner DEBBI SANCHEZ • Fortino Winery of a new truck for the person who can last the longest holding on to the side Secretary/Treasurer of a truck without letting go except for DAVID MATUSZAK, Ed.D. short breaks. So, yours truly was there • Santa Clara County R.O.P., South to witness the Toad Suck Festival last Vc OPERATIONS & DEVELOPMENT month. JAN PEAT • McDonald’s of Gilroy The ‘Toad Suck’ name evolved when, years ago, the steamboats Vc public affairs traveling the Arkansas River had to GREGG GIUSIANA • Retired Police Chief tie up until the water level made Vc business programs & Services passage possible. The captain and DEBBI SANCHEZ • Fortino Winery crew would refresh themselves at the local tavern, and locals said, “They Vc MARKETING & COMMUNICATIONS suck on the bottle ‘til they swell up LISA CASSARA • Coldwell Banker like toads.” Today, this small town in the middle of Arkansas plays on this BOARD OF DIRECTORS storied past and has raised over $1 million for student scholarships since BRIGITTE NICHOLLS its inception. • Union Bank Having traveled through many CHAR MARRAZZO • Marrazzo Financial states – and managed various hotel LLOYD LOWREY properties throughout my career, there • Noland, Hamerly, Etienne & Hoss

is a lesson within which I would coin, ‘the Toad Suck phenomena’: a little history mixed with fun, food, and entertainment combined with a branded theme generates a consistent revenue stream for a community. This happens with the Rose Bowl, the Mushroom Mardi Gras, Strawberry Festival – the list goes on.

Gilroy has built its own phenomena with the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

the local economy was $6.2 million. With over a decade of Garlic Festivals since that time, Gilroy has enjoyed an incredible economic benefit. From the perspective of our hotel property, we have a full house during the Festival weekend. Many of our guests plan other activities around that stay – visiting wineries, Gilroy Gardens, shopping at The Outlets, and even extending their stay to enjoy other sites in the region. The Toad Suck Festival gets a bit of a grin from people when I tell them about my experience, but I can guarantee you that Conway, Arkansas is smiling all the way to the bank.

Gilroy has built on its own phenomena with the Garlic Festival. Over 100,000 people visit Gilroy for a three-day weekend with a celebration about garlic. In 1999, the Festival did an economic impact study, and the trickle-down effect on


2013 Chair of the Board Gilroy Chamber of Commerce

MARK TURNER • South Valley Community Church CHERYL ELLEMBERG • ABD Promotions GINA LOPEZ • State Farm Insurance

CHAMBER STAFF Susan Valenta • President/CEO Michelle Garcia • Administrative Assistant Chris Bevilacqua • Administrative Assistant Rosie Vogel • Administrative Assistant Sue Thurman • Business Relationship Manager

WELCOME CENTER STAFF Jane Howard • Executive Director

Pam Gimenez • Office Manager


Tammy Brownlow • President/CEO Candace Van Sambeek, Administrative Assistant


EDITOR • Susan Valenta, President/CEO Gilroy Chamber of Commerce

PRODUCTION & DESIGN • J. Chris Mickartz InfoPOWER Communications

PHOTOGRAPHY • Larry Mickartz InfoPOWER Communication


Transitioning to the new Chamber C.E.O. THE GILROY CHAMBER of Commerce is recognized throughout the Western States as a high performing chamber. We consistently rank well on our annual survey conducted through the Western Association of Chamber Executives when comparing expectations to performance in core competencies. The Chamber has invested wisely in programs and services to facilitate economic development and has a long history of strong Board Chairs and equally strong Board of Directors. Additionally, the Chamber was instrumental in the formation of the Gilroy Visitors Bureau, the Gilroy Economic Development Corporation, Leadership Gilroy, and the Business & Education Task Force, just to name a few. The Chamber is very fortunate in owning its own facility and being independent from any government funding.

June marks the point where the Chamber posts the opening of my position in various trade publications. I had announced my retirement last December to the Chamber Board with a commitment to assist in the recruitment and training of the new President/CEO. In the spirit of true transparency, a copy of my job description is available by e-mailing me at The deadline for submitting resumes is July 29. The Board has the discretion in closing the date earlier. We request that they be marked ‘Confidential’ and addressed to Eric Gebhardt, c/o Gilroy Chamber of Commerce, 7471 Monterey Street, Gilroy, CA 95020. As a brief snapshot of the position, the President/CEO is responsible for the administrative and management functions of the organization. Beyond that, he/she plays a strong role in collaborating with community partners

with an eye towards economic vitality, building on the membership base, and bringing innovative ideas to the forefront. Admittedly, I have invested a lot of my personal life into the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce and am proud of the accomplishments that we have achieved as an organization. This never could have been accomplished without the dedication of our volunteers and Board leadership. Although I will be retiring, my heart will always be with the Chamber, so, like the old penny, you will still be seeing a lot of me. SUSAN VALENTA President/CEO Gilroy Chamber of Commerce

7471 Monterey Street • Gilroy, CA 95020 web: e-mail: phone: (408) 842-6437

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Gilroy Business Focus I June 2013

Gilroy Business Focus – June | 2013 Edition  

A Publication of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce.

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