Too many people?

Organizers say they were already planning a smaller affair to keep down crowds that have packed previous Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festivals. On Tuesday, they will learn whether city leaders will allow any festival at all. Review file photo

The Half Moon Bay City Council on Tuesday night will decide whether the city’s flagship event will take place this year given the recent surge in COVID-19 cases due to the contagious Delta variant. Given the circumstances, organizers had announced a smaller Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival, but those plans now hang in the balance.

In June, the Half Moon Bay Beautification Committee announced plans to run a smaller, modified version of the Pumpkin Festival. In order to hold the event and close streets, the Beatification Committee needs a Special Events Permit from the city. Because of the festival’s timeline and logistics, the Beatification Committee has said it needs the council to vote on the matter no later than Tuesday night.

The meeting will include a presentation from city staff regarding the latest data on the pandemic and current federal and state guidelines for outdoor events. As of Friday afternoon, San Mateo County is averaging 14 cases per 100,000 people over the last seven days, according to the state health department. The county’s hospitalization rate is 12 people per 100,000, a 38 percent increase over the last two weeks, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

According to the San Mateo County Health Department, Half Moon Bay is 88.1 percent vaccinated and 91 percent of the people in the county have received at least one dose.

The question is complicated by data that is not known, however. There is no mechanism in place to take attendance at the Pumpkin Festival, but it usually draws thousands from across the Bay Area and beyond. That means local vaccination rates don’t tell the whole story.

The Beautification Committee will present its planned health and safety protocols for the event during the council meeting. On its website, the committee said the festival will be held in accordance with state and county safety guidelines by recommending attendees be fully vaccinated. If not fully vaccinated, it strongly recommends that attendees obtain a negative COVID-19 test before coming to the event and wear a face covering.

In an effort to reduce the number of people at the festival, the committee is only allowing arts, food and beverage, and kids activity booths run by Coastside residents as opposed to a typical festival that has arts and food vendors from across the state. The committee planned to partner with Coastside Hope to host a vaccination pop-up on-site at the festival as it did at the Fourtth of July parade.

A city staff report explained that the council’s decision on the Pumpkin Festival will have ramifications for other city-sanctioned outdoor events this year. The Summer’s End Music Festival, scheduled for Sept. 25 at Carter Park, draws a much smaller attendance than the Pumpkin Festival, but because of the number of people in a confined outdoor space, staff is recommending that any denial or modification to the Pumpkin Festival’s permit would likely need to apply to the Summer’s End concert as well.

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.

(8) comments

Zack B

Why this last hour shot at having the Pumpkin Festival? Is it just about the money? Even an attenuated festival will bring some money and that may benefit local charities although it is not clear how much benefit they derive from the event. Cui bono?

There are proponents, including some who use the Covid crude death rate, somewhat erroneously, as justification, for holding the festival. It is unknown what liability the City of Half Moon would have should some deaths result from a super-spreader that this could become. But should one occur, there will be lawsuits most assuredly.

Skipping the event this year might give the Half Moon Bay Beautification Committee an opportunity to redesign the festival—which is in need of a serious makeover. Even putting the current location map upside down would be an improvement. I can almost hear the cries, “but it’s a tradition!” “Why should we change it?”

Perhaps, but it is tradition has taken a back seat in more recent years.

Because, well there is the money. $20 to park your car. Four bucks for a grilled ear of corn. Seven bucks for a logoed wine glass [which costs less than one dollar wholesale]

Let us encourage the beautification committee to return to tradition and design a new festival with suggestions from HMB locals.

Scott McVicker

Attendance under agreed on conditions places the responsibility on the individual. Those who fear a poor outcome need not attend.


A graphical exercise: On your piece of paper, draw a circular arrow. Next to that draw a straight line vector. The test is to get out of the bad decisions which have been made and continue to be made...under the guise of protecting "our" health. Choose your representation.

John Charles Ullom

"A graphical exercise: On your piece of paper, draw a circular arrow. Next to that draw a straight line vector. The test is to get out of the bad decisions which have been made and continue to be made...under the guise of protecting "our" health."

What? Are you high on Oleander Extract? Have you mixed it with Ivermectin? Are you mainlining that cr^p with diluted sodium hypochlorite? You know that mixing up your own drug cocktail is not conducive to a long life. Right?

"Those who fear a poor outcome need not attend."

By 2:00 PM. the crowd usually degenerates into a p!ssed off bunch of drunks. I never attend. Boring and a not much better than a South Dakota tourist trap.

"Choose your representation."

I have. As much as I am disgusted by the guy, (he screwed the wife of a close friend and then went to alcoholics moderation meetings because, well, you know, devil whisky) and (he is a lying hypocrite), . Newsom is the best choice offered.

Elder is a mess, and the idiot promoting himself using the age old question of where a Ursus Americanus defecates is an idiot.


The old individual responsibility argument falls apart when free ridership and inadequate infrastructure due to the (vulture of narcissism) aforementioned librarian shortcomings are factored in. Individual responsibility for the CDC and Fire Department and Cal Trans are a great example, if you got the bitcoin there buck-oh.

Scott McVicker

I am reminded of an old Dilbert cartoon. Dilbert is promoted to management for a time. The boss walks Dilbert through the offices until they come on a small, roofed wishing well. The boss says, if you have any questions, you can shout down the well and you will hear an answer...every day except Tuesday. Dilbert asks, why not Tuesday? The boss replies, because that is Your day in the well.

Submitting the question of whether we should have a Pumpkin Festival this year to the same folks who have toed The Narrative's line all these many months is nothing but a Kabuki dance. As I have mentioned in the past, Top Down structures like Government and Education foster fixed mindsets which are not easily changed. You can expect that any imagined uncertainty will be put forward in Council deliberations as a potential “Safety”...and thus will be used to justify cancellation...”until next year.” Sad glances will be exchanged. Regrets will be mouthed. Command carries its burdens.


We can remove the doomsayers and pearl clutchers from the process. The choice as to whether one attends this gathering will again become personal. Each individual will look at the available data, consider their own risk(s), implement whatever protection measures they deem necessary, then decide that they wish to attend. No vaccine passports. It will be understood that people will be in close contact. I can imagine that those who promote centralized control over every aspect you lives are soiling themselves at the very thought. Don't care.

If you look back in The Review's archives in March 2021, I provided you with the COVID-associated deaths for the Nine Counties (the source for our Festival's potential attendees) for a one year period. In San Mateo County alone, that figure was 7 in 10,000. For the Nine Counties, 7.3 in 10,000. Those are small numbers. Those people won't be attending. That leaves the rest of us to push on. To get back to behaving like rational adults. To stare at these small numbers and shed the fear and panic which has been pushed down our throats over the past 18 months.

Zero COVID is a fantasy. COVID has joined the pantheon of viruses we will dealing with moving into the future. It is past time we learn to that we may learn to live WITH this and every future virus. Unfortunately, some will be unable (or worse, for their own reasons, be unwilling) to adapt. They are unrecoverable. They should stay away from whatever situations they deem unsafe...and remain prisoners of their personal hysteria. The rest of us need to move on.

John Charles Ullom

"...the committee is only allowing arts, food and beverage, and kids activity booths run by Coastside residents as opposed to a typical festival..."

What a concept! A local festival sporting locals. Proving we really don't need all those imported vendors.


If attendance could be restricted but we all know how this works. Holding a festival where you won’t have any ability to control crowds and do contact tracing and attract large crowds in a narrow space is irresponsible.


Would you like to support your claims with facts and explanation. Or is it an article of faith?

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.

More Stories