People come for the pumpkins, pancake breakfast and parade.
They come from all over for the art, wine and beer, and the small town Main Street charm that makes the annual every October so world famous and so distinctively everything pumpkin.
But they also come for the food.
Walk down Main Street anytime of day during the festival and people at every turn are biting into corn dogs, calamari, gigantic turkey legs, buttery corn on the cob, creamy chowder in bread bowls, beef sandwiches, garlic fries, lingucia, and hearty stews of artichokes and Brussels sprouts.
They sit on curbs and along the sidewalks, sinking their teeth into pumpkin-infused treats like pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake rolls, , pumpkin cookies, pumpkin ice cream, , pumpkin churros and pizza with pumpkin spice.
Indeed, the food vendors at the Pumpkin Festival sell some tasty grub and a lot of it, but what also makes these booths so extraordinary is that they are all volunteer-run, and every single penny earned goes back to the Half Moon Bay community.
“This is one of the only festivals around that has non-profits running food booths,” said Half Moon Bay Mayor . “There are no commercial food vendors here. All the money that is made from selling food at this festival goes back to the community, and it’s so awesome.”
Patridge knows firsthand. She’s been manning the corn dog booth with a crew of volunteers every Pumpkin Festival weekend since 1980, raising funds for ’s girl’s softball team.
“I’ve been running the Softball League since 1973,” said Patridge, who adds that the $10,000 they raise selling $3 corn dogs every year in the food court over the Pumpkin Festival weekend goes toward the softball team’s equipment, uniforms and tournaments.
The Lions Club across the street from the food court, serving up grilled corn on the cob, raises up to $5,000 for local seniors and youth programs.
“We’ve done this for 30 years now. We run neck and neck with the Methodist Church, which sells turkey legs and sandwiches for $4 every year, and they also raise anywhere from $4,000 to $5,000 during this event, too,” said Half Moon Bay resident Wayne Charkins, a Lions Club member for 25 years. “It’s a wonderful thing knowing so many local organizations are giving back to the community.”
Even small bags of pumpkin seeds and cookies can bring in a non-profit thousands of dollars.
The , selling pumpkin cookies and bags of pumpkin seeds, hopes to gross $3,000 or more this Pumpkin Festival weekend, according to Executive Director Jo Chamberlain.
That’s the same amount that Karen Corzine, director of the Coastside Child Development Center made last year selling margaritas and mojitos.
“It rained last year so I’m hoping with the good weather today we can make more this year with all proceeds benefiting the Center,” said Corzine.
“For most groups this is their most significant fundraiser of the year,” said Marina Fraser, Half Moon Bay City Council member. “A lot of programs or activities are sustained through the volunteer efforts for each group.”
Fraser’s most favorite thing to eat at the Pumpkin Festival is the group’s pumpkin roll with cream cheese inside, “hands down, definitely my fave,” she said. “You can buy it by the slice or take home a whole roll,” she said. “Stick it in the freezer, and you can have a treat for the rest of the week.”
Other popular food options at the festival include the Half Moon Bay Yacht Club’s fried calamari, HMB High School water polo team’s pumpkin smoothies, and ’s beef sandwiches.
The HMB High School Music Department "is trying something new this year with their baked potato booth,” said "Farmer John" Muller. “Pumpkin curry potatoes, and I bet they'll do well.”
Judging by the long line of people waiting to order baked potatoes in the food court, they must be doing something right.
“I can't imagine anyone walking away from the food court without finding something they would enjoy,” said Fraser. “What is special is that no two booths sell the same item. This gives everyone an opportunity at a specialty. Believe me, many people come back year after year for one of their favorites.”
The festival will be held today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Main Street between Miramontes and Spruce streets in Half Moon Bay. For festival information, call the Info-Line at 650-726-9652. Admission is free.