No Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival this year means no haunted houses, musical acts, pancake breakfasts, pie-eating or costume contests. But at its core, the loss of the festival once again means a lost opportunity for more than 30 nonprofit and faith organizations that receive much-needed revenue from the event.

When officials canceled the festival in 2020, generous donors pitched in to help the nonprofits. Bay Area attorney Joseph Cotchett and his family gave $200,000 to launch the committee’s Pumpkin Power Project and put up a $100,000 matching donation to give back to organizations. That offset the more than $270,000 that 38 Coastside organizations earned in the 2019 festival, according to data from the Half Moon Bay Beautification Committee.

Half Moon Bay Lions Club President Jim Benson had been looking forward to the group’s largest fundraiser of the year. The so-called “Minifest” would allow the club to do what it had done for many years: sell burgers and corn to thousands of visitors and raise funds for local teams, clubs and services. When he found out the Pumpkin Festival was canceled for a second straight year, he was concerned.

“It’s unfortunate and disappointing, but (the City Council) has to do what they think is best for the community and safety of everybody,” Benson said.

Seventy-four years since its inception in 1947, the Lions Club has a hand in many facets of the Coastside. The money it gets from Pumpkin Festival casts a wide net around the community, helping Little League teams, contributing to travel expenses, giving scholarships to students and supplies for Half Moon Bay High School sports teams as well as helping with Grad Night. Without its biggest event of the year, netting between $15,000 and $20,000 per festival, it’s going to be difficult for the club to give the usual support to local organizations.

When asked about what he misses from the festival, Benson was quick to point out the utilitarian nature of so many people supporting the town.

“I like our community getting together and all the different groups raising funds to help our community,” Benson said. “… It’s a big blow for everybody to not have that.”

August Howell is a staff writer for the Review covering city government and public safety. Previously, he was the Review’s community, arts and sports reporter. He studied journalism at the University of Oregon.

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