“You can’t go in there,” Farmer John said while holding a machete. We had just watched him hack off a few stalks of corn from his corn field was now headed back to the pumpkins that littered the rest of this field along highway 1. The place we weren’t allowed to go was exactly where we were headed, it appeared to be the entrance of the corn field, maybe a maze, decorated with balloons. We told him we were hoping to see a corn maze. He said it was not a maze, but a picnic area for corporate events. Despite carrying a machete, Farmer John was not the intro horror movie, but part of my weekend in Half Moon Bay at the annual Pumpkin Festival. I picked my kid from college and drove through Friday traffic to this normally quiet coastal city south of SF.
On arrival Friday night, we ate on Main Street at Pasta Moon. Our food was good and local, but locally sourced food comes with a price. Hay bales and large boxes of pumpkins were already on street corners in preparation for the next day. It was chilly on the coast and the morning would bring the damp coastal fog.
We did the things that people did at festivals, shopped local artist booths and eat festival food. I was up early on Saturday for the 7 am pumpkin pancake breakfast served and made by the high school basketball team. We were some of the early birds. When we finished eating out pancakes made with pumpkin purée (not some easy trader joes mix), the line at for other pancake eaters was a couple blocks long. We also tried garlic fries and braved to long food lines.
We saw live bands and watched the parade with local police, fireman, and even Farmer John on a tractor. But this year, everyone said the festival was more crowded than any other year. By 1 pm we were feeling it. The city was busting at the seams and we headed to Cameron’s British pub to escape Main Street crowds. The food was average pub fare. After that we visited Farmer John’s pumpkin farm, which he wanted us to know was the proper term because it was not a pumpkin patch. He grew those pumpkins in 120 days, which is how long it takes to grow any pumpkin.
At the end of the day, we ate at Sunset at Sam’s chowder house. Every seat has a view of the coast. We were tired and chilly, but the heaters on the patio were enough. The smell of the Northern California coast mixed with a hint of nearby redwoods is what I love about Half Moon Bay. I don’t know if the festival was the most crowded ever, but the crowds were huge. I was glad to spend time talking to my kid about college life, roommates, and future plans. And I definitely will continue to visit that small town, even if just on other, less crowded occasions.