No go this year

Joel Holland, a regular competitor in the Half Moon Bay World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off, was a key part of the parade at the 2017 Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival. Such scenes will remain in the past for now after Tuesday's Half Moon Bay City Council vote against allowing a special use permit for a festival this year. Review file photo

Hearts were heavy late on Tuesday night when the Half Moon Bay City Council unanimously voted to deny a special events permit for the 2021 Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival after citing concerns over the contagious Delta variant and local vaccination rates.

This marks the second straight year the town’s crown jewel has been canceled. The Pumpkin Festival’s fate also resulted in another lost public event when the city decided to cancel the annual Summer’s End Festival that was scheduled for Sept. 25 at Carter Park.

Councilmember Deborah Penrose said the decision was one of the hardest and saddest things she’d ever talked about on the council, particularly for the dozens of nonprofits who rely on the festival.

“I would love for this to be over,” Penrose said. “I would love it more than anybody else in this room would love it. But it’s not over and it’s not going to be over soon.”

The council acknowledged the efforts of the Beatification Committee, led by President Cameron Palmer, who presented a plan to run a slimmed-down, single-day festival on Oct. 16. Palmer said the Beautification Committee wouldn’t advertise anywhere outside the Coastside nor post about it on social media. The committee also planned to reduce booth and exhibit space by 50 percent to allow for more distanced pedestrian flow.

The committee planned to only allow local vendors and nonprofits at the festival and reduce the size of the venue by half. The committee also had hoped for an on-site vaccination pop-up with Coastside Hope.

There is no state or county mandate canceling outdoor events, and some were optimistic the festival might go ahead given 91 percent of San Mateo County residents have received at least one dose of the vaccine. But some areas of the Coastside have some of the lowest vaccination rates in the county, according to the San Mateo County Health Department.

As of Tuesday night, Moss Beach is 52 percent vaccinated, El Granada is at 68 percent. Other communities are much higher, like Montara (95 percent) and Half Moon Bay (88 percent). But given this scaled-down event was geared toward locals, the council thought the science pointed in one direction.

“Even if we were able to keep it totally local it would have its risks, with some of the lowest vaccination rates in our community,” Mayor Robert Brownstone said.

Councilmember Harvey Rarback noted if large crowds still come to Half Moon Bay, they’d be in a more confined venue.

“This would be the worst of all possible worlds,” he said. “You have more people in a smaller area, and the potential for a super-spreader event is there. Maybe it wouldn’t happen, but as a responsible person interested in public safety, I can’t in good conscience encourage the festival.”

Vice Mayor Debbie Ruddock pointed out that children under 12 can’t get vaccinated yet and given that schools have recently reopened, inviting large crowds into town wouldn’t be safe.

“I’m terribly sorry and upset about it,” Ruddock said. “I worry for our nonprofits and for our artists.”

The council agreed that ideally the festival would have gates at each entrance and require proof of vaccination. Palmer said implementing gates at each entry point would be a serious logistical challenge given that it’s only a few weeks away and there are multiple entry points from public city streets. So far the council is allowing the pumpkin weigh-off to return to the I.D.E.S. Hall in October after running at Long Branch Farms last year.

“There are some logistics that day as well, but not nearly as complicated,” Palmer said.

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.

(20) comments

Scott McVicker

Minds sanitized of doubt. A collective of purpose. The agreement with The Narrative confirmed. Rest now, dear followers, in your passivity.

August West

They don't even question it. They embrace it. Sad.

Happy to be in a free state.

John Charles Ullom

5 orphan's, and two dead unvaccinated parents: --


Are vaccinations of veterans from the VA Hospitals counted in the SM Co. vaccinations totals? It does not seem plausible only El Granada and Moss Beach have lowest vaccinations rates.

Chip Chandler

here ya' go

Local professional sports Teams are hosting tens of thousands of unmasked fans for games in outdoor stadiums. Haven’t heard much reported about these potential super spreader events. Wonder why. Could it be that there has been NO super spread at these OUTDOOR gatherings? Is the Council aware of this?

John Charles Ullom

Bit of detail required. This from the 49rs:

"Fully vaccinated fans are not required to wear a mask while outdoors. All fans, regardless of vaccination status are required to wear a mask while indoors including club spaces, restrooms and elevators. Stadium staff will continue to have face coverings made available as an option. Attendees must follow Santa Clara County Public Health Guidance for Face Coverings."

Too bad there are so many whiney self centered Americans

who only think of themselves. If our generation had taken on Fascism, we would all be speaking Japanese these days. Can you imagine the outrage if we were asked to make the kind of sacrifices that America's Greatest Generation were proud to make?


I have to say that this decision is completely asinine...It’s an outdoor festival for goodness sake. Are you going to keep it closed down for a third year too? And a fourth? Ridiculous. The county has an extremely high vaccination rate. Are you saying the vaccines don’t work? What is it?


And the sheep continue to follow based on the information received from main stream media . Sad.

John Charles Ullom

Where do you find the truth? OANN? NewsMax? Fox? RT? InfoWars? Those annoying texts and emails Trump spews a few times per day? Where?

And what is the truth anyways? Provide a link to the truth.

uffish thought

President Trump still asks his supporters to get vaccinated.

Some people boo him for it but he says it anyway.

You knew that.


After seeding his article with heavily loaded language like the "heavy hearts" after the Council's decision, and his statement that we have lost the "crown jewel" of the Coastside, author Howell may want to revisit his understanding of the differences between reporting and op-ed writing. My (admittedly aged) heart was warmed by the knowledge that the Council had helped me dodge yet another Covid bt.

Cid Young

And, we really should protect the many small unvaccinated children who enjoy the P-Fest! Councilwoman Penrose knows having been a Doctor in her previous life, that you can’t dismiss a deadly virus with a smirk or a boast. The children under age 12 who can not be vaccinated could be at risk, even if only the adults in their homes were to attend a crowded event abd bring it back home! I’m vaccinated and it was no big deal. What is wrong with the word-of-mouth narrative going around. I’ll bet everyone know someone who has died from this virus. And it’s deadly effects can be minimized by getting vaccinated. Even break-through cases of people who are vaccinated are less serious. Please everyone! Get the Vaccine AND get the Booster too!

small town girl

Very sad. AprilGloryB. Beach Break Entertainment's outdoor movies are socially distanced and offer the local non profits a chance to earn some much needed funds. I encourage anyone interested the chance to reach out and sign up to help with an upcoming event.

Cid Young

I’m glad there won’t be a “Super Spreader event this year. Maybe the Beautification Committee can hold a virtual auction site (on-line) to BOTH raise money for Artisans AND the local Non-Profits, in the name of Virus Vaccine Awareness. Maybe they should sponsor a Bi-lingual Vaccination Booth in Moss Beach and in El Granada (or somewhere in between like Princeton) that would raise awareness that the UnVaccinated have caused them to cancel the Pumpkin Festival again this year. Until the boogie-men on Social Media and TV stop telling people that the vaccines are “evil” we’ll never stop the spread of this virus. Maybe they will have to cancel next year’s festival too, unless they start to be more Pro-Active. Please everyone, for our world to return to normal we all need to defend ourselves against this hideous and deathly 🦠virus! Get vaccinated and wear your masks!😷 PLEASE!


[sad] Sad but necessary, if we ever expect to get rid of this horrible pandemic. I'm glad the Council voted no.


It is hard to lead. It is harder to make unpopular decisions. Our City Council has once again stepped up. The real disappointment is for those groups adversely impacted due to the lack of vaccinations across the Coastside by people who are unwilling to do what's right for themselves, their families, their community. To those who are not vaccinated - please get vaccinated. Read the stories of those who are suffering or died due to Covid and regret not getting vaccinated. You do not want to be one of them.


Is there another way that the community can support the local nonprofits and artists absent the festival?


Support Coastside Gives when it comes around in May. Many of these nonprofits now heavily rely on that annual day of giving which helped raise $2million+ in the last two years alone while Covid was going on.

August West

In much of the country, it is already over.

The hand-wringing is almost comical. Get your booster shots and put it on. Sad for the community. These are not leaders.

John Charles Ullom

"In much of the country, it is already over."

Where is that? Where is it over? Texas? Florida? Missouri? Mississippi? Idaho?

Please, prove something. Where is it over?

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