The Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival has been cancelled for the second consecutive year after the Half Moon Bay City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to deny its special event permit due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off will go on as planned on Monday, Oct. 11 on the IDES Grounds.
Organizers had planned to reduce the normally two-day festival to one day on Oct. 16, reduce its typical size on Main Street, and adhere to public health safety guidelines. The festival was set to be called the 2021 Pumpkin Minifest 49.5 (2020 was set to be the 50th anniversary of the festival).
Despite those measures, the City Council decided that holding a world-famous festival would not be safe during the pandemic. Councilmember Deborah Penrose said she was saddened by the decision but does not believe it is safe to hold the festival that draws out-of-town visitors, not unless attendees are required to prove they’ve been vaccinated and wear masks.
Pent-up demand for social events could attract hundreds of thousands of people to a festival with a smaller footprint, creating the potential for a super-spreader event, Councilmember Harvey Rarback added.
“I in good faith can’t vote to have this event if I can’t feel we can ensure the safety of attendees,” Councilmember Robert Brownstone added.
Organizers with the Half Moon Bay Main Street Beautification Committee expressed “heartbreak” over the Council’s decision. Cameron Palmer, president of the committee, said gating off and manning the many entry points into the festival area to ensure all attendees are vaccinated isn’t feasible.
“There’s going to be a lot of heartbreak on our committee and also in our community,” Palmer said. “I guess it’s just one of those no-win situations.”
Organizers and councilmembers alike expressed sadness for the local nonprofits that benefit from the festival, along with local artists and musicians, suppliers, vendors, sponsors and businesses.
Photo courtesy of the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival website.