Every fall, picturesque Half Moon Bay bursts into a brilliant sea of orange and buzzes with excitement and activity to celebrate its bountiful and beautiful fall harvest. The dazzling journey is its own reward. The tunnel through Devils Slide is a sight to behold, plus the breath-taking 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 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 48th annual festival will be held on October 13-14 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
Champion pumpkins will be on display, the mesmerizing and remarkably talented “Picasso of pumpkin carvers” will sculpt and shape monster pumpkins into one-of-a-kind masterpieces, and beautiful harvest-inspired crafts by America’s top artists will be for sale. On Sunday, don’t miss “Made on the Coast” Locals’ Artists Block featuring fine art and live music, festive food and drink, the richest/creamiest/tastiest pumpkin pie on the planet, four stages of blockbuster entertainment, everyone’s favorite home-spun parade, the world’s largest mosaic pumpkin.
Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off
The Big Week launches with the World’s Greatest Gourd Growers and their titanic orbs doing battle in the 45th Annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off, the Super Bowl of weigh-offs, on Monday, October 8. Organizers are offering a hefty, world’s biggest top prize of $7 per pound and $30,000 in total prize money for a new world record entered at Half Moon Bay. Superstar grower Joel Holland’s gargantuan 2,363-pound weigh-off champion mega-gourd set a new American record and obliterated a formidable field of heavyweight contenders in winning the 2017 Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off. Holland is expected to return along with a host of accomplished, veteran growers to contend for the $30,000 world record prize. The Goliath grand champion mega-gourd, along with the top four heaviest weigh-off pumpkins, will be displayed at the Pumpkin Festival, October 13-14.
The Great Pumpkin Parade
A longtime festival favorite, the Great Pumpkin Parade will be lead by two-time World Series champion, three-time All-Star, Willie Mac award winner and SF Giants all-time, all-out inspiration Hunter Pence as Grand Marshal.
“To Giants fans, Hunter Pence will always be remembered for his inspirational leadership, out contagious enthusiasm and outstanding play as a key cog in two World Series championship teams,” said Cameron Palmer, Chairman of the festival committee. “We’re super excited and totally thrilled he has accepted our invitation to serve as parade Grand Marshal this year.”
It’s 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.
The World’s Largest Pumpkin Statue
Lake Tahoe-based artist Peter Hazel, whose family has ties to the very first Pumpkin Festival, is the brilliant creator of the massive mosaic sculpture that measures 12-feet long, 11-feet high and weighs 10,000 pounds. But, unlike other giant pumpkins, this one is made of steel, cement, and ceramic tile. “It’s only fitting for Half Moon Bay to have the world’s biggest mosaic pumpkin sculpture,” said Cameron Palmer, Pumpkin Festival Chairman, who hatched the idea with Hazel and commissioned the piece. “Castroville has the Giant Artichoke … New York City has the Big Apple … Half Moon Bay should have the Great Pumpkin!” Hazel plans to attend the festival. Stop by the pumpkin sculpture to meet its creator!
“Made on the Coast” Art Show
“Made On The Coast” (MOTC), a group of coastside artists and a sub-committee of the Pumpkin Festival, returns with their popular one-day pop-up show, Sunday, October 14th. 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. On both Saturday and Sunday, the Locals’ Block will also feature the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company Made on the Coast Stage featuring many of the best bands on the local music scene in the parking lot of Cunha’s Country Store at the corner of Main and Kelly.
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 craftmakers—who will be offering great variety and price points to satisfy every budget—on hand with their latest creations. 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 items one-of-a-kind items available.
“We have longtime festival favorites returning as well as many talented, new artists this year,” said Kris Mason of the Pumpkin Festival Committee. “Every item you’ll see is handcrafted from beginning to end—it’s the perfect opportunity to meet the artists that conceive and do the work.”
Help fatten the coffers of community groups while savoring mouthwatering pumpkin-infused treats like pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin sticky buns, pumpkin cake rolls, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin ice cream, pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin churros, pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie fudge, chicken pumpkin sausages, pumpkin seeds, and pumpkin pie soda. 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, chicken, pork and beef tamales, hot beef sandwiches, corn dogs, roasted turkey legs and turkey sandwiches, macaroni and cheese with pumpkin seeds and spice, garlic fries, steamy clam chowder in sour dough bread bowls, hamburgers, grilled corn on the cob, garlic fries, huge baked potatoes with pumpkin curry all the trimmings, kettle corn, and caramel apples!
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 30 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 and 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.
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.
The free-admission festival will be held on October 13-14 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.