No matter what’s happening around us, one lovely constant remains at this time of year—the coastal communities wondrous and highly-anticipated autumn season is upon us and, on the picturesque coast around the World Pumpkin Capital of Half Moon Bay, it’s always stunningly spectacular. The dazzling journey is its own reward … the breathtaking views of seaside farm country dotted with vast, rolling fields of orange, scarecrows, barns and pick-your-own pumpkin patches. It’s the perfect time of year and the perfect place to celebrate the simple beauty and bounty of the fall season, and Half Moon Bay does it like nobody else. The world-famous Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival is the season’s signature event, drawing hordes of visitors to the “World Pumpkin Capital” for an epic festival on historic Main Street. This year’s 51st annual festival will be held on October 14-15 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
Massive, mind-boggling, Volkswagen-sized weigh-off champion pumpkins on display, the mesmerizing and remarkably talented “Picasso of pumpkin carvers” sculpting and shaping monster pumpkins into one-of-a-kind masterpieces, harvest-inspired crafts by America’s top artists, the Sunday-only “Made on the Coast” Locals’ Block featuring fine art and live music, delicious seasonal food and drinks, the richest/creamiest/tastiest pumpkin pie on the planet, four stages of blockbuster entertainment, everyone’s favorite home-spun parade, the Xfinity Take 5 Lounge with giant screen TV, ultra-thrilling bungee jumping and waterballerz, enchanting events and contests for the whole family, selfies and fun with the delightfully rotund, playful and mischievous Pumpkin Festival mascot “Gourdy”, the never-ending search for the Great Pumpkin, and a bumper crop of 3,000+ tons of the beloved orange orb waiting to be picked from one of the many rustic pumpkin patches around town are among the extraordinary, not-to-be forgotten attractions.
SAFEWAY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP PUMPKIN WEIGH-OFF KICKS THINGS OFF, OCTOBER 9: COVETED TITLE AND $30K WORLD RECORD MEGA-PRIZE AT STAKE
The Big Week starts off with the World’s Greatest Gourd Growers and their massive orbs doing battle in the SAFEWAY WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP PUMPKIN WEIGH-OFF, the Super Bowl of weigh-offs, on Monday, October 9 (7 a.m., on the IDES Grounds, 735 Main Street, Half Moon Bay). Organizers, in association with title sponsor Safeway, will celebrate the world’s greatest gourd growers with the world’s biggest prize money pool. Using a pay-by-the-pound system, the ginormous top prize of $9/pound will be awarded to the 2023 weigh-off champion. Also at stake are thousands of dollars in super hefty prize money doled out to the top 20 plus the big carrot: a $30,000 total mega-prize for a new world record pumpkin entered at Half Moon Bay (the current world record is 2,702.8 pounds set at a 2021 weigh-off in Italy). Two-time champion Travis Gienger of Anoka MN took home the top prize and set a new North American record with his rhinoceros-sized 2,560-pound mega-gourd that obliterated a formidable field of heavyweight contenders in winning the 2022 Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off. Gienger and a host of accomplished veteran growers are expected to contend for the coveted title. The Goliath grand champion mega-gourd, along with the top four heaviest weigh-off pumpkins, will be displayed at the Pumpkin Festival, October 14-15.
THE GREAT PUMPKIN PARADE
A longtime festival favorite, the Great Pumpkin Parade (Sat. 12 noon) is the ultimate old-fashioned, home-spun parade featuring the mighty weigh-off champion pumpkin and grower, marching bands, classic cars, fantastic floats, and a Mardi Gras-style procession of costumed ghouls, gargoyles, goblins, ghosts and assorted surprises. Saturday, 12 noon on Main Street.
FINE ART, HARVEST-INSPIRED CRAFTS
Buyers and browsers will find thousands of handcrafted items in well-stocked booths covering several city blocks. It’s an ideal opportunity to meet 250 of America’s top artists and craft makers who will be offering their latest creations with great variety and price points to satisfy every budget. Featuring original work in sculpture, paintings, photography, glass, ceramics, textiles, jewelry, leather, wood, metal and mixed media, the festival is considered among the top art shows in the country. Hand-blown glass pumpkins, beautiful vases, flatware, clocks, dishes, wall and table decorations, paperweights, stained and beveled glass, etchings, sculptures, photography, oil and watercolor paintings, beadwork, gold and silver jewelry, vests, handbags, hats, wallets, footwear, windchimes, and waterfalls will be among the thousands of one-of-a-kind items available.
Four stages of sensational entertainment for all ages will transform Half Moon Bay into the Bay Area’s entertainment hotspot for a weekend during the city’s monster Pumpkinpalooza. Performing on the IDES Main Stage are Terri Hiatt, Terrie Odabi, Steely Dead, Three On The Tree, Sean Carscadden, Pardon The Interruption, and Jim Stevens & Friends. The Ritz-Carlton South Stage at the Gazebo will feature Casual Coaltion, the Jacob Benning Trio, John Elliot and the Band of Supervisors, Maestro Vaughan’s Campfire Quartet, and Clay Eagle Bell. The Made on the Coast Music Stage at Mac Dutra Park features John Lester, Walter Anderson and the Half Moon Bay High School Marching Band, Midnight Flyer, David Walker & Moxoa, Michelle Lambert, and The Aguilar Blumenfeld Project. Street musician Bob Culbertson will mesmerize listeners with his 10-string acoustic Chapman Stick. The Safeway Family Stage features the amazing, three-wheeling comic explosion known as Bob at Large, House of Samba Kids, Martin & The Green Guitar, award-winning children’s singer-songwriter Megan Schoenbohm, sensational bluegrass band West Coast Ramblers, and tons of kid-friendly fun and games.
FABULOUSLY FESTIVE FOOD
Dig in! And, while you do, help fatten the coffers of community groups while savoring mouthwatering pumpkin-infused treats like pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cake rolls, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin milkshake smoothies, chicken pumpkin sausages, pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin spiced cotton candy, macaroni and cheese with pumpkin seeds and spice, chicken and pork tamales with pumpkin mole sauce, and nachos with pumpkin salsa. Then, move onto the next course with coastal favorites like Brussels sprouts steeped in a zesty marinara sauce, and artichoke hearts steamed with an aromatic blend of garlic, olive oil, and herbs. Plus traditional favorites like Portuguese linguisa, bratwurst and Italian sausage sandwiches, hot beef sandwiches, corn dogs, garlic fries, steamy clam chowder in sour dough bread bowls, hamburgers, veggie burgers, grilled corn on the cob, garlic fries, root beer floats, kettle corn, and caramel apples!
DELECTABLY DELICIOUS CRAFT BEER, PREMIUM WINE AND CRAFT COCKTAILS
Enjoy tasty varietals from Half Moon Bay Winery including Rosé of Dolcetto and this year’s limited-edition festival-label Monterey Red Blend, and world-class seasonal craft brews like Pumpkin Harvest Ale, refreshing Kolsch pale ale and delicious hop-happy Full Swing IPA from Half Moon Bay Brewing Company plus Elysian Night Owl Pumpkin Ale, Elysian Space Dust IPA, Stella Artois, Golden Road Mango Cart, and Big Wave Golden Ale.
For another refreshing alternative, festivalgoers can enjoy refreshing, low-carb, gluten-free Nutrl Vodka Seltzers – watermelon and pineapple. On the spirits side, enjoy delicious craft cocktails from 10 Barrel – Classic Margaritas and Moscow Mules. Hydrate with a bottle of PathWater, 100% responsibly and locally sourced water in an aluminum reusable bottle. Sip your favorite beverage in a beautiful, collector-item wine glass or beer mug adorned with the classic festival logo.
FARMER MIKE, THE PICASSO OF PUMPKIN CARVERS
Farmer Mike, the “Picasso of Pumpkin Carvers”, has been a top draw and the Pumpkin Festival’s official carving expert for over 35 years. On his Pumpkin Festival stage, Farmer Mike has created whimsical faces, movie characters like MEGAMIND, a Wells Fargo stage coach, Puff the Magic Dragon, and even enshrined Pigeon Point Light House into the shell of a pumpkin. The Atlantic Giant variety of pumpkins he carves range in size from 300 pounds to more than 1,500 pounds. Most of his incredible detail work is done using a folding buck knife and a variety of simple chisels. He loves to interact with his audience, providing carving tips and answering questions. Be sure to stop by to see Farmer Mike carving one of his masterpieces.
GIANT PUMPKIN PHOTOS
How often do you get to see and touch a staggeringly-massive, hard-to-believe, larger-than-life 1-ton pumpkin let alone get to have your photo taken alongside something so extraordinary? Thanks to the festival’s partnership with Silicon Valley Community Foundation, photos with the grand champion gourd will be available. Your awesome one-of-a-kind photo will be snapped and instantly printed for a special take-home keepsake. The cost is $20 per 4×6 print, with discounts for multiple copies or poses. All proceeds benefit the Cabrillo Education Foundation (CEF), a non-profit for the sole benefit of the students attending our seven local Coastside public schools. The photo booth is at the corner of Main and Miramontes Streets.
Hundreds of ghosts, goblins, ghouls and more model their ingeniously creative Halloween attire in the Costume Contest, a popular time-honored festival tradition before walking in the big parade. The costume contest is open to all ages with individual and group divisions. Saturday, 10 a.m. in front of Half Moon Bay Library, at Church and Correas Streets.
Get up close and personal for this hilarious test of unbridled power-eating. Huge, gasping audiences gather to witness this stunning spectacle with each participant devouring and “wearing” a delicious 8” Safeway pumpkin pie heaped high with whipped cream. Aside from power-eating, panache and style go a long way with audience judges. “To me, the pie eating contest embodies the essence of Pumpkin Festival,” said Wilbur Collins, the spiritual and emotional leader of the contest organizing team for many years. “It encourages participation, it’s loads of fun, and it’s open to everyone. Seeing kids with face and hair full of gooey pumpkin pie, whipped cream and a big smile, it’s a truly sight to behold.” On both Saturday and Sunday, age 11 and under at 2 p.m, age 12 and over at 2:15 p.m. in the Family Fun Zone in the Bank of America parking lot, 620 Main Street.
Non-competitive Pumpkin Carving will be available on Sunday in the Family Fun Zone at Bank of America, 620 Main Street. It is not a contest, there’s no judging or awards … it’s simply for fun. Pumpkins and carving knives are provided. Create your very own masterpiece Sunday between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
XFINITY TAKE 5 LOUNGE
Sports fans have a place to kick back and catch NFL and NCAA football and MLB playoff games on a giant LED screen in the Xfinity Take 5 Lounge. It’s the perfect spot to take a break. Couch potatoes and sports fans will find the comfort and enjoyment of their own living room without ever leaving the event. The Xfinity Take 5 Lounge is a place where festivalgoers can escape the teeming crowds, relax and hang out with friends while watching their favorite sporting events on a giant LED TV, a 9′ x 12′ screen with picture-perfect quality. Top that off with a tasty Pumpkin Harvest Ale, refreshing Kolsch or hoppy Full Swing IPA from Half Moon Bay Brewing Company and an Italian sausage or bratwurst sandwich with zesty marinara sauce fired up by the Coastside Adult Day Health Center and you’ve got a flat-out winner.
Up and down the street, festivalgoers will be captivated by an array of amazing attractions. See the spectacular display of the top 4 pumpkins from the weigh-off. Catch massive air on the ultra-thrilling bungee jump. Splish, splash, run, jump, bounce and slide around on the super fun waterballerz. Express yourself with creative body art at the High School Art Department’s face painting booth. Enter the Wilkinson School Sensory Fun Zone and play around with kinetic sand tables, a playdough station, a bead blow-up sensory pool with floating boats, express yourself chalk art zone, and spin-the-wheel game.
“MADE ON THE COAST”, LOCAL ARTISTS BLOCK
The coastal area is brimming with exceptional artistic talent. “Made On The Coast” (MOTC), a group of local artists and a sub-committee of the Pumpkin Festival, returns with their popular one-day pop-up show, Sunday, October 15th. The centerpiece of the “Made on the Coast” Locals’ Block will once again be the artists’ booths, showcasing top-quality arts and crafts from local painters, photographers, potters, jewelers, fabric artists, glassblowers, furniture-makers, and more—as well as live demonstrations.
PANCAKE BREAKFAST BOTH DAYS
To launch your memorable day with a super-tasty carbo-load, the High School Varsity Boys Basketball Team will fire up the griddle to host the traditional Pancake Breakfast complete with unlimited buttermilk or pumpkin pancakes, gobs of butter and maple syrup, three grilled sausage links, and a choice of fresh orange juice, hot coffee or tea. Cost is $15 per person. Advance tickets are available on Eventbrite. Advance ticketholders will have their own line and less waiting time. Saturday and Sunday morning from 7 to 11 a.m. in the City Hall parking lot, Main Street at Kelly Avenue. Get Pancake Breakfast tickets in advance and skip the long line!
PUMPKIN RUN PRESENTED BY SENIOR COASTSIDERS
The Pumpkin Run will be held on Sunday (various starting times from 7:15-8:20 a.m.) at Hatch School (490 Miramontes Avenue). The Pumpkin Run features a Half Marathon plus a 5k, 10k, and Kid’s Fun Run, all to benefit Senior Coastsiders. The Virtual Pumpkin Run will be available from October 1-14. Pumpkin Run Info-line: 650-712-7322. Run info and registration
THE HALF MOON BAY BEAUTIFICATION COMMITTEE
The Pumpkin Festival was created by the newly formed Main Street Beautification Committee in 1971 as a means for restoring historic downtown Half Moon Bay. That first year, buildings were painted, trees were planted and a legend was born. Since then, the festival has helped raise several million dollars for civic projects and community service organizations throughout the coast.
There will be parking at the south end of Main Street at Metzgar, Half Moon Bay High School (Main St. just north of Hwy. 92), Our Lady of the Pillar Church and the Community Center/Shoreline Station complex, both located on Kelly Avenue just east of Highway 1. Many parking lots are operated by local non-profit groups who charge a nominal parking fee. There is also very limited free parking on several side streets.
KICKSTAND BICYCLE PARKING
Bicycle parking is available in the Straight Wheel Cycling parking lot, at the corner of Kelly and Purissima from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Suggested donation is $5 per bicycle. Sea Hugger is managing the “Kickstand” Bicycle Parking as a fundraiser. Sea Hugger is a Half Moon Bay-based nonprofit working to protect and heal the marine environment from plastic pollution through education and action. From sponsoring monthly beach cleanups to promoting conservation laws, Sea Hugger works tirelessly to keep our beautiful ocean and Coastside clean and healthy. Special thanks to Straight Wheel Cycling and The Coastside Mountain Bikers. Get bicycle parking details
Ride SamTrans bus service to the festival – you’re dropped off just steps from the festival! Get public transit details
RIDE SHARING AND DROP OFFS
The festival’s designated Ride Sharing and Para Transit drop-off/pick-up location is in the Shoreline Station lot at Highway 1 and Kelly Avenue.
There will be specially marked accessible parking on Purissima Street between Correas Street and Kelly Avenue.
Main Street will be closed to traffic from Mill Street south to Monte Vista Lane throughout festival weekend. Southbound Main Street will not be accessible from Highway 92 beginning at approximately 7 AM on Saturday. Main Street will re-open at approximately 10 PM on Sunday. Departing the festival, Highway 92 eastbound will not be accessible from Main Street (either from the north or the south). The only way to go eastbound on Highway 92 is from Highway 1.
The free-admission festival will be held on October 14-15 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Main Street between Miramontes and Spruce Streets in Half Moon Bay. To get to Half Moon Bay, take 101 or 280 to Highways 92 or 84 west. You can also get to Half Moon Bay via Highway 1 from both north and south. Get directions from your location.