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Yuanxia tian,Baiyun district,Guangzhou,China





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Home > Pumpkins by the sea

In Half Moon Bay, California, chill autumn air marks the end of summer and the start of its hottest season. "It‘s pumpkin time," declares Alys Shin, as she traverses Highway 1 toward the crescent-shape bay. The huge swells that build below intensify the excitement brimming in her two young sons.

Every October, 300,000 visitors edge along this gravity-defying road in a pilgrimage to the heavenly fields of glimmering orange gourds that stretch between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. "I bring my nieces and nephews before Halloween," says Mike Pappas of his annual visits to Seaside Pumpkin Farms. "They get such a thrill from picking out their own pumpkins." Up the coast, John Muller (better known as "Farmer John") offers 30 Technicolor varieties including ghost-white Lumina, blood-orange La Rouge, and dark green Fairytale that attract both young and old. "They come screaming out of cars and into the fields, as if they‘ve won the lottery," he says. "You can feel the electricity in the air. It‘s exhilarating. I wait all year for this season to arrive."

Although the Central Valley grows a larger number of pumpkins, residents consider this seaside destination the Pumpkin Capital of the World, a title the town actually branded upon itself. "It‘s a chance for inland folks to day trip to the coast," says Farmer John. "Once a year, you see an entire cross section of society all in one place enjoying exactly the same things together," he adds. "Who doesn‘t love pumpkins? And who doesn‘t love the coast?"

The area‘s fertile lands and coastal climate helped establish its agricultural legacy from 18th-century Spanish settlers to today‘s proud local farmers. Bill Rodoni‘s 400 acres of Brussels sprouts, artichokes, leeks, and a wide variety of pumpkins thrive in the persistent winds and dense fog that sweep in from the Pacific. "The Central Valley can be too hot for certain coastal crops that require cooler conditions," he explains. Bill‘s grandfather started his waterfront farm in the early 1900s and passed it down to ensuing generations. "I spent my childhood on this land fishing off the cliffs for sea bass and motorcycling through the fields," says Bill, who now runs Seaside Pumpkin Farms with his father. "It‘s chaotic during pumpkin season because we have to get so much out in such a short season. When October hits, the masses come out to the coast." But Bill still finds time to enjoy his wife‘s pies. His inside tip: "The light green Jarrahdale pumpkins make the best pies because they‘re sweet and creamy."

Fall festivities culminate with the Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival (this year, October 15th and 16th). The weekend celebrates everything pumpkin: pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin ice cream, a pumpkin-carving contest, and an old-fashioned pie-eating competition. "People return every year from all over," says Carol Mickelsen, founder of the San Benito House and baker of famous pies for 25 years. Placing a fresh batch before salivating passersby, she says, "It‘s absolutely my favorite time of year."

The festival crescendos with the Great Pumpkin Parade, where the winner of the World Championship Pumpkin Weigh-Off takes the throne on a float next to the 1,000-plus-pound gargantuan gourd. Little goblins shriek as clowns spray candy into the crowd. High school bands, antique car horns, and firemen‘s shouts echo down the street. This weekend, everyone‘s a kid again.

When wisps of fog swirl in and an eerie moon rises over the bay, it‘s time to head back. Along Highway 1, cars creep home now laden with shiny orange orbs and happy, slumbering kids.