It's October, which means pumpkins are popping up everywhere, flavoring drinks, adorning mantles and decorating porches.
But there is only one place to see pumpkins in abundance and the rhinoceros-sized orange orb that set a new world record. The 2,749-pound mega-gourd will play a starring role at the 51st Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival Oct. 14 and 15.
The world-famous festival gathers growers with the biggest pumpkins in the country with the community for a festival to celebrate the beloved orange gourd.
The new world record was set by three-time winner Travis Gienger of Anoka MN, when his pumpkin weighed in at well over a ton at the 2023 Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off Oct. 9.
The festival was organized for the first time in 1971 to help restore the city's historic downtown. It has since evolved into a celebration that attracts visitors from around the country and international news coverage for its giant pumpkin weigh-off. While it has become world-famous, the event continues to be a fundraiser for local non-profits.
Like the fundraising and weigh-off, a number of activities and features have become traditions at the festival.
For 45 years, the Pumpkin Run has been a mainstay of the festival, with a kids fun run, 5K, 10K and half marathon.
"Participants always seem to have a blast and dress up much like participants do at Bay to Breakers," said Ronan Fowler, an event organizer with Miramar Events.
The Oct. 15 run will take participants along the scenic Coastal Trail, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Proceeds benefit Senior Coastsiders, a local non-profit that provides enrichment activities, services and resources to older adults. Registration information is available at raceroster.com
Expert pumpkin carver
Local pumpkin carver Mike Valladao, affectionately called Farmer Mike, has been at the festival for more than 35 years.
"These are not your average jack-o-lanterns," according to the festival page. "The Atlantic Giant variety of pumpkins he carves range in size from a hundred pounds to more than a half ton each. Because giant pumpkins have a thicker shell, he takes advantage of the size and depth of the medium to create whimsical faces and reliefs that defy imagination."
Past designs have featured Puff the Magic Dragon, Charlie Brown and Yoda. No two carvings have been the same because Farmer Mike lets the pumpkin shape inform the carving. This year, he plans to track down a 132-pound pumpkin in honor of the first ever weigh-off winner.
"His ode will help attendees see how far the weigh-off has come, from its humble beginnings to the rhinoceros sized one-ton pumpkins seen today," Fowler said. "Farmer Mike is keeping his cards close, however, to what the carving will look like, but we are eagerly waiting to see what will be produced."
Local art exhibit
Along with the booths offering décor, fine art, clothing, and gifts from artisans around the United States, this year's festival will also feature 20 local artists for a one-day Made on the Coast pop-up on Oct. 15. Such an exhibit is integral to the festival because it supports the community.
Pie eating contest
The pie eating contest on both days of the festival has an age 11 and under contest at 2 p.m. and a category for everyone else at 2:15 p.m. Festival sponsor Safeway will provide 150 pumpkin pies.
For more information about the festival, including its newest featured exhibit, the Collaborative Paint Temple, and its famous pumpkin pancake breakfast, visit pumpkinfest.miramarevents.com.
The world-famous Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival is the season's signature event. This year's will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 14 and 15 on historic Main Street in Half Moon Bay. Admission is free.