Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival gives visitors a day to remember

Mike Valladeo carves a pumpkin at the annual Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival.

Katerina Gaines

Mike Valladeo carves a pumpkin at the annual Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival.

The Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival welcomed both new and returning families to its fun atmosphere filled with expert pumpkin carvers, live music, and small business pop-up shops.  

On Oct. 20, Half Moon Bay held its annual two-day pumpkin festival. The event was founded in 1971, making it one of California’s largest and oldest local festivals. Since then, the festival has become a family tradition for many. 

“I think it’s a tradition for a lot of people now,” said Rachel Kristine, a small business seller at the festival. “It’s just growing and growing and growing. There’s a lot to see here and a lot of original art.” 

The festival experienced exponential growth, particularly in 2018, when the festival hit record crowds and sales. Profits from the festival go to civic causes and beautifying the town.

“The weather’s great. It’s a seaside town, and there’s lots of shopping and things to see,” said Sandeep Kassemen, a festival attendant.

People attending the festival get into the festive mood by eating themed food, including pumpkin drinks and desserts. Some even wear pumpkin hats and Halloween costumes.

“We like seeing other people dressing up. At the event, you see a lot of pumpkins, and it’s very festive,” said Frederico Domondon, a small business owner.

However, the majority of people come to the festival for the pumpkins. The large, meticulously carved gourds could be seen throughout the festival, drawing crowds.

Mike Valladeo, also known as Farmer Mike, has been carving pumpkins professionally for 34 years. He made his first appearance at the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival in 1986, and ever since then, he has continued his tradition of carving giant pumpkins at the festival.

“I know many things about pumpkins because not only do I grow them, but I also carve them,” Valladeo said. “I know them inside and out and probably better than anyone else in the world.”