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.