Inspired by its plentiful pumpkin patches, the first Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival was held in 1971 to raise funds to help revitalize downtown Main Street. 45 years later, the Pumpkin Festival has become an annual autumn tradition for many families in Sunnyvale and around the Silicon Valley, It is also one of the most established and renown events of its kind in California.
Half Moon Bay embraces their World Pumpkin Capital status during this weekend event. Parades, pumpkin patches, pie eating and costume contests, arts & crafts, pumpkin carving, zip lines, bungee jumping, food, drink, live entertainment…the Pumpkin Festival offers it all and then some.
Kicking off the event is the Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off, pitting one enormous, car-sized squash against another. Held on Columbus Day, the weigh-off signifies the prominence of agriculture to the local economy. Giant gourds weighing half a ton or more are trucked into Half Moon Bay and entered into the Weigh-Off, vying for the impressive $30,000 prize. The top five pumpkins, including the Grandmaster of all pumpkins, are prominently displayed during the two days of the Festival. Giant Pumpkin Photos are another huge draw, with proceeds benefiting the Cabrillo Education Foundation.
Choosing the perfect pumpkin is never an issue, as Half Moon Bay’s pumpkin patches are many and varied. Whatever size, color, shape or variety of pumpkin speaks to you, odds are you will find a suitable squash. Traipsing through the pumpkin fields is something visitors can do either during the festival and all the way to Halloween. A list of all the patches along with local farms and produce stands is available by clicking here.
Of course, once you have a chosen a pumpkin, carving it is next on the list and no one is better at creating an incredibly carved gourd than Farmer Mike, known as ‘the Picasso of Pumpkin Carving’. He debuted his talents at the Pumpkin Festival in 1986 and he has been a fixture ever since, creating three-dimensional, quirky faces, iconic symbols like the Pigeon Point Lighthouse and Wells Fargo Stagecoach and whimsical creatures on enormous pumpkins, delighting awestruck audiences.
The Pumpkin Pie Eating Contest is a favorite of all ages, encouraging participation, light-hearted competition and lots of messy fun.
Only a few short weeks after the event, the Pumpkin festival embraces Halloween with a Costume Contest held Saturday, October 17th at 10am as well as with its popular, spooky and interactive Haunted Barn.
Over 200 artists display and sell their work at the festival, much of which is inspired by the event’s harvest theme. Music the likes of Country, Blues and Reggae and other live entertainment is presented on three stages. Food is another big draw and attendees can enjoy everything from pumpkin pancakes, breads, ice cream and cheesecake to local crops like artichokes and Brussel sprouts.
This only begins to touch upon all the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival has to offer. This is truly a family event that embodies enjoyable tradition, fantastic food and amazing art all set in a gorgeous seaside town bursting with the most massive pumpkins you’ll ever see.
This year’s festival will be held on Saturday and Sunday, October 17th & 18th from 9am to 5pm along Main Street. Admission is free. Visit the official website for more information on events, parking and festival highlights.