Mike Valladao

Farmer Mike Valladao meticulously carves a large pumpkin during the festival. Kyle Ludowitz/Review 

For decades, Mike Valladao’s pumpkins have been impossible to miss at the Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival. Since 1986, “Farmer Mike” has blended a farmer’s touch with an artist’s eye to carve massive cartoonish faces and intricate designs into giant gourds.

This year, he’ll be missed downtown.

Valladao carved his way into being a staple of the festival using a buck knife and a few chisels. His dedication to his craft can be seen at every festival. Interestingly, his smallest and largest piece both took more than three hours to complete. A 991-pound Atlantic Giant and a pumpkin the size of a child’s hand both receive the same painstaking detail. Though Valladao lives in San Jose, he has longtime family ties to the Coastside and has spent more time at the festival than most.

Valladao believes the event that brings a plethora of pumpkin-themed decorations to Main Street brings a unique atmosphere to the town.

“It’s really a change of spirits for the whole community,” he said.

Valladao knows how large of an undertaking it is for organizers to pull off a festival in a normal year and acknowledges the difficulty in the City Council’s unanimous vote. He also hoped that two consecutive years without an event wouldn’t slow the momentum or cause vendors, sponsors and artists to look elsewhere for whatever reason.

“A long-term break is difficult for continuity,” 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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