It's That Time of Year Again: Think Pumpkins

Pumpkin Weigh-Off Underway

A pumpkin-weighing contest this morning will kick off the annual Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival, with a prize of $6 per pound paid to the winning pumpkin grower.

Growers from along the west coast and throughout the Pacific Northwest have grown goliath pumpkins and made the trip to Half Moon Bay for the chance at the open division title, festival spokesman Tim Beeman said. The contest is in its 35th year, he said.

The open division of the Safeway World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off offers the $6 per pound prize to the grower of the biggest pumpkin, with set $2,000; $1,500; $1,000; and $500 prizes awarded to the second, third, fourth and fifth through tenth place winners, respectively.

A San Mateo County division will weigh pumpkins grown within the county, with a prize of $500 for the winner and $300 and $200 for second and third place winners, respectively.

Special prizes will be awarded for the biggest California pumpkin, $1,000; biggest Coastside pumpkin, $500; biggest San Mateo County Farm Bureau pumpkin, $500; and most beautiful pumpkin, $500. Most beautiful pumpkin will be judged by the audience based on color, shape and size, contest officials said.

The weigh-off at the I.D.E.S Grounds, 735 Main St., will begin at 7 a.m. and conclude around 11 a.m., Beeman said.

Last year's winner, Thad Starr of Pleasant Hill, Ore., was a first time entrant in the Half Moon Bay contest, according to Beeman.

Starr, a stay-at-home dad, sought advice from other growers in his area before growing and harvesting his winning 1,524-pound pumpkin.

This year's winner along with the other top five biggest pumpkins will be displayed during the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival, held Oct. 18 and 19 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the city's historic Main Street.

The winning pumpkin will also be available for pictures during the festival, Beeman said.

Beeman said Half Moon Bay holds the festival as the World Pumpkin Capital, producing more than 3,000 tons of pumpkins ever year and shipping them around the world.

"We're just bursting out in orange here," Beeman said.

Half Moon Bay boasts beautiful fall weather along with the pumpkin harvest-inspired food, decorations and activities, he said.

"The festival itself to me, I call it the feel good festival because everyone is happy and in a great festive mood," Beeman said.

Pumpkin pancakes, cheesecakes, pies and other goodies will be sold along with other food and drink during the festival, also famed for the pie eating contest, expert pumpkin carver, costume contest and variety of harvest-inspired arts and crafts.

With food, beverage, parking and games run by local non-profit and community groups, the festival is also a fundraiser. Beeman said the groups raise about $500,000 from operations during the pumpkin weekend.

"It's a very special event," Beeman said. "It means a lot to the community."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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