Farm Day. Dream Machines. Pumpkin Festival. Fish and Fleet. Fog Fest.

Most of the biggest events of the Coastside calendar have “gone viral,” which is to say they are gone due to the virus. Again.

For the second year in a row, the economic engine that powers Coastside nonprofits and forms the fun-filled basis by which the area is known to hundreds of thousands of visitors has been stopped cold by the ongoing public health crisis. The financial cost is hard to calculate, but it’s massive. These festivals combine to fund youth sports organizations and the social service apparatus that protects our most vulnerable, and touch virtually all of our most well-regarded nonprofits between Pescadero and Pacifica.

The loss of each one is almost incalculable. And the pandemic is only one calamity. Consider the Pescadero Art and Fun Festival, the 30-year-old affair that provides youth scholarships with the hopes of one day building a teen center in town. It is off this year as well. And it isn’t just COVID-19 that has threatened its existence. According to the event website, the trailer containing fair production equipment was destroyed in the CZU Lightning Complex fire that roared through the South Coast in August 2020.

The importance of these events goes well beyond a few days of frivolity and another year’s worth of funding for good causes. They are part of the identity of our coastal towns in the minds of many visitors who can’t separate Pacifica from Fog Fest, or Half Moon Bay from the Art and Pumpkin Festival.

Cameron Palmer, the community-minded Half Moon Bay businessman who each year donates untold hours to help organize the Pumpkin Festival, told us that the Coastside’s largest spectacle wasn’t officially canceled yet, though it would take a miracle to pull it off late if conditions change. He seemed resigned to another year without pumpkins on Main Street even if some in town are holding out hope.

We think event planners should continue to err on the side of caution. We understand the urgency of returning to in-person learning at area schools. There is more interest every day in opening a bit more retail and restaurants. Doing so deliberately and in daily consult with public health experts makes sense as we navigate this new reality. But inviting the entire Bay Area downtown, all at once, is another thing entirely.

We are so close to putting this behind us, or at least getting a handle on this particular novel coronavirus. Let’s not get in a hurry to party.

— Clay Lambert

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