Oh My Gourd! Half Moon Bay Festival Delivers More Than Massive Pumpkins

Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

This article is more than 6 years old.
More than 100,000 people attended the 45th Annual Art and Pumpkin Festival in Half Moon Bay this past weekend.  (Ericka Cruz Guevarra/KQED)

Rain failed to deter more than 100,000 locals and out-of-towners from showing up at the 45th Annual Art and Pumpkin Festival in Half Moon Bay this past weekend.

Historic Main Street was lined with art, pumpkin doughnut vendors and, of course, the occasional kid in a "Ghostbusters" costume. A highlight was the Great Pumpkin Parade, with the local high school’s homecoming court leading the way.

The event, which raises thousands of dollars each year for community organizations and scholarships, now attracts thousands of outsiders and features live music, face painting, shopping and DIY art.

Steve Daletas of Pleasant Hill, OR won the 42nd Annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off with his 1,969 pound pumpkin. This is Daletas’ third time winning the weigh off in Half Moon Bay.
Steve Daletas of Pleasant Hill, Oregon, stands with his mother, Jeanette, as winner of the 42nd Annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off. The pumpkin weighed in at 1,969 pounds. (Ericka Cruz Guevarra/KQED )

But it remains, after all, a pumpkin festival. Spectators lined up along main street for the Great Pumpkin Parade, some with pumpkin pie in hand.

One of the parade’s highlights was the 1,969-pound winner of the 42nd Annual Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off, the 12th heaviest in the world.

Steve Daletas, 55, won $11,814 ($6 per pound) for his pumpkin. The airline pilot from Pleasant Hill, Oregon, won the weigh-off twice before, once in 2001 and again in 2003.


“Competition growers all over the world understand the stature and historical significance of Half Moon Bay, and to win here is an incredible feeling,“ said Daletas in a post on the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival Facebook page. “It’s been a great year and I simply could not have accomplished this without the support of my family ... it’s definitely a team effort."

The festival was created by the Main Street Committee for Beautification in 1970 to raise funds to restore the historic downtown. In the first year, the city was able to paint buildings and plant trees.

Since then, millions have gone to grants and donations, with more than $100,000 going to local scholarships in the past 20 years. About $25,000 goes to maintenance on Main Street.

"All the proceeds and profits [from the Pumpkin Festival] go right back into the community and organizations like the Boys & Girls Club and the Senior Center" said Shari Mills, a festival volunteer at the information booth.

But the Pumpkin Festival isn't just about the pumpkins.

At Oddyssea's activity and adventure garden on Main Street, visitors could make everything from sand art to earth treasure necklaces -- paid for, of course, with pirate doubloons.

Young princesses hoping to win the annual costume contest could pass time in line for a walk through the Haunted Barn.

Festival-goers could also treat themselves to seasonal pumpkin harvest ales or beverages from Half Moon Bay Winery, all while watching the MLB playoffs in the "Take 5 Lounge."

When rain began to sprinkle, visitors either put on their hoods or headed back from where they came.

Festival-goers from Hayward, Santa Cruz, San Jose and beyond contributed to the traffic along the two main highways leading to Main Street.

For those stuck in the backup, it was a scenic ride along the country side of the small pumpkin capital with a now 45-year-old festival that, in 1970, was just a modest hometown effort.

Others, like a group of friends from San Jose, Sunnyvale, Union City, Menlo Park and Santa Clara, were just getting started.

"Why would we leave now?" they said as they ate their pumpkin pie in the rain. "We drove over two hours to get here."