In the wake of recent mass shootings across the country, Half Moon Bay staff, local law enforcement and residents have been particularly concerned about safety at the upcoming Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival. Officials now say they are planning added security for the October event.
Organizers for the event already meet regularly leading up to the annual festival to discuss plans for security and traffic management. Those discussions seem to take on added urgency this year.
“The events at Gilroy and subsequent events shortly thereafter remind us that, one, these types of events do happen and they can happen here,” said Deputy City Manager Matthew Chidester. “And two, now that we have these relationships established, how much focus does there need to be to prepare for what might happen or could happen.”
The Half Moon Bay Beautification Committee is the nonprofit that organizes the event, working with Coastside-based Miramar Events to put on the festival. Chidester said the committee submits an application for a permit, which is reviewed with CalFire, the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, California Highway Patrol and the city’s Public Works Department. Chidester explained that city staff will be working to monitor code enforcement and street closures during the event, “but largely it’s the Sheriff’s Office that has the largest role in providing security.”
The San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, along with the other mutual aid agencies, meets regularly with the festival committee, officials said.
“There has been an increased communication and we have identified some issues and are putting some resources toward those,” said Capt. Saul Lopez.
Officials say they discussed whether to change the event to include tickets and gates, but quickly dismissed the idea.
“Everything’s been on the table. I think what’s been determined is the way the event is done, it does not lend itself to being a ticketed event with entry points,” Chidester said. “It’s a free event, open to the public, held on our streets and we do not want to make it a closed event. It doesn’t really work.”
The Sheriff’s Office has said it has always been concerned about event safety at such events. However, “moving forward, with all events in the city there will be an increased presence of law enforcement. Some will be known and others will be undercover,” Lopez said.
Motorcycle and bicycle patrols will also be brought in, which are often used to manage crowds, according to Lopez. People attending the festival are encouraged by the Sheriff’s Office to sign up for SMC Alerts, a free emergency alert text notification system.
“We are in continued meetings with the festival committee and the city, and we have done site surveys on how we can respond to all emergencies,” Lopez said. “The communication is wide open, and we’re all on the same page.”
Lopez is expected to make a statement about security and safety for the Pumpkin Festival at the Aug. 20 Half Moon Bay City Council meeting. Chidester anticipates there will likely be frequent discussions at City Council meetings leading up to the event.
Half Moon Bay’s Pumpkin Festival is scheduled for Oct. 19 and 20.