Joel Holland’s name carries its own heft at the annual World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off. The Sumner, Wash., resident is a seven-time winner and has three-peated twice, once from 1992 to 1994 and again from 2004 to 2006. If that hadn’t secured his place in the festival’s lore, his 2017 gourd nearly broke the scale at 2,362 pounds, the biggest ever grown in the United States.

Though Holland is planning to attend this year’s weigh-off, scheduled for Oct. 11, he said it won’t be the same trip without the fanfare of the festival. In addition to enjoying the generous selection of food, entertainment and local art, Holland is a big fan of the parade on Main Street, where he and his pumpkin have been heavily featured.

“It has a hometown feel and there’s a lot of excitement,” Holland said. “We know a lot of people down there and it’s always wonderful to see familiar faces.”

He estimates he has come for the festival 16 times. He is well aware of the event’s impact on the town’s organizations and businesses and is disappointed the event won’t go down in 2021.

“We understand it’s important to keep people safe as well and get past this COVID issue and get back to normal times,” Holland said.

Half Moon Bay isn’t the only place Holland brings his heavyweight prizewinners. Through his farming company, Holland’s Land O’Giants, he takes his pumpkins to other events in the Pacific Northwest. But he noted there is hardly ever the full-on celebration that the Coastside typically brings.

“I don’t think we’ve ever been to a place that quite does it up to the degree that Half Moon Bay does,” he said.

— August Howell

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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