Garlic Fest adds new security measure

Preparations are underway for the 21st annual South Florida Garlic Fest at John Prince Park in Lake Worth Beach Saturday and Sunday. (WPEC)

A popular event is using technology to keep visitors safe.

People come to the South Florida Garlic Fest at John Prince Park for food and fun. There will be all sorts of garlic delights to tempt your taste buds, from garlic stuffed mushrooms to garlic donuts to garlic ice cream.

But if trouble happens, visitors will learn about it quickly through text messages that will be sent to their phones.

“We can notify everybody what steps to take and how fast to take them," said Nancy Stewart, president and executive director of South Florida Garlic Fest.

But visitors at the South Florida Garlic Fest will also be asked to opt in to text messages that can alert everyone at the festival at the same time, in case there's a security problem.

The idea stemmed from the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Fest in California last July that claimed three lives and wounded 17 others.

“With the incident that happened at Gilroy Garlic Fest, it had us take a really hard look at how can we insure the safety of our patrons," Stewart said. "How can we step it up to give everybody a level of comfort that we’re doing whatever we can to ensure their safety."

Visitors who text the word GARLIC to a special phone number will be added to the system.

One staffer showed us what a message might say.

“An active shooter is in the Garlic Fest area, police are responding. Take shelter and wait for the all clear notification," said Lindi DiMaio, marketing and communication director for South Florida Garlic Fest, as she read aloud one of the possible text alerts.

The Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office will be involved in writing and sending the text messages, which could also warn about severe weather or a missing child.

"If they know that we are putting their safety first and foremost and doing everything we possibly can to enhance, I think they’re gonna have a sense of security," Stewart said.

You won't be surprised to hear that the Garlic Fest will also send out text messages with information on food and drink specials.

The South Florida Garlic Fest, now in its 21st year, takes place Saturday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.