Volunteers who have been searching for Morgan Hill teen Sierra LaMar over the course of her four-month disappearance will be handing out posters and fliers to garlic festival attendees this weekend.
Volunteers had initially asked to have a booth at the 34th Annual Gilroy Garlic Festival, but were turned down by organizers who said the festival is filled to capacity.
More than 150 booths will be at the three-day event, according to Gilroy Garlic Festival Executive Director Brian Bowe, who said booth spots were filled by March and that a waiting list has already been established.
"It might seem a little harsh, I understand that, but we have a policy of not allowing community groups to set up tables or booths for free inside the festival to distribute literature and information," Bowe told Chloe Beardsley of Central Coast News.
The petition, which currently has 125 signatures, states that the garlic festival is the perfect avenue to keep Sierra's abduction in the spotlight.
“Since the Gilroy Garlic Festival is a major event, drawing people from all over the region, it is the perfect platform to let people know about Sierra's plight, raise some money for the search effort and to keep child safety in people's minds,” Bowe writes.
KlaasKids Founder Marc Klaas said that although he thinks there’s a moral obligation to support efforts in your own community, that having a booth at the festival isn't that important in the bigger scheme of things.
“It’s not a big deal. It’s not going to change anything, it’s not going to bring Sierra home any sooner, it’s not going to help with the prosecution and those are the big-picture issues right now,” he said. “What’s important is that people continue to show up to search, that the Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate and that we locate this girl and bring her home.”
Klaas said volunteers, including new ones, continue to show up at the search center each week, and that there were upward of 50 volunteers on Wednesday.
“That’s extraordinary four months into the case, where nothing has happened in three months. [The media] still covers it, people still volunteer, we’re still able to feed everybody and move it forward,” Klaas said. “Im blown away by Morgan Hill and Gilroy — that these people have been so steadfast in their support for Sierra's family.”
Antolin Garcia-Torres has been charged in Sierra's murder with the special circumstance of kidnapping. He has a plea hearing scheduled for 9:30 a.m. on July 31 in department 23 of the Hall of Justice courthouse in San Jose.
For previous coverage of the Sierra LaMar case, refer to the Sierra LaMar Disappearance: Comprehensive Updates and Information page on Gilroy Patch.