Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival draws thousands to coastal town

Half Moon Bay’s annual Art and Pumpkin Festival brought out nearly 100,000 visitors to Main Street and a lot of the attention was on one little stage. 

Farmer Mike Valladao and his interesting art was the center of attention because carving pumpkins takes on a whole different meaning for him, “The first year I had some giant pumpkins and nothing to do with them so I carved them and quickly it occurred to me that it was too thick for the typical triangle eyes,” he said.

Instead of slicing all the way through his pumpkins, he carves faces, animals, really anything you can think of, on the surface. He’s been doing it for more than 30 years.

“I will typically sketch on the pumpkin just the outline of where I want things to be and then I carve the details,” said Valladao.

His art is on display at the annual festival where visitors spent two days experiencing the fall fun. Tents with food, all run by local by nonprofits, and trinkets lined the road. Money spent there goes back into the community. It’s all part of the city’s beautification efforts.

“One of the things is we like to beautify Main Street, underground utilities, helped build parks and all sorts of things like that,” said festival chairman Cameron Palmer.

A beautiful street is the best place for Farmer Mike’s stage. He spent hours carving for a big crowd and even though the pumpkins only last a few days, he enjoys every minute, “If this gives people a little bit of a happiness, that makes it all worthwhile for me.”