We at The Equinox are upset that the Main Street Pumpkin Festival’s permit is being reconsidered. We have staff members who grew up in Keene and have their fondest childhood memories of carving pumpkins in middle school and looking for theirs on display on Main Street. They have memories of looking forward to a weekend where their community could happily come together and enjoy the wonders of fall and the city itself. But now it seems the word “Pumpkinfest” will continue to have the word “riots” attached to it.
This year will be marking three years since the Pumpkinfest riots took place in Keene, and despite the fact that time has passed, the reputation surrounding Keene State College students still remains.
KSC Interim President Melinda Treadwell recently said a very low number of KSC students were arrested during the riots that year. There were 155 students who were all disciplined, and some were expelled. Not only would we like to move on from this and put what happened in the past, considering next year will bring in the new wave of students who didn’t even go to school at KSC in 2014, but we also want to see the community rebuild from this and go back to having the downtown Pumpkin Festival be a family-oriented, fun event.
We are upset for the community as a whole. With the location of Pumpkin Festival being on Main Street, many businesses made their biggest sales in the past on Pumpkin Festival weekend. But this year, if it is scaled down and is solely being held at the Cheshire Fairgrounds like the past two years, then businesses won’t do nearly as well, seeing as there won’t be as much foot traffic downtown.
One thing that is important to remember is the “Pumpkinfest Riots” did not happen right downtown for families to see; they happened on campus. However, the idea of college students rioting a few blocks away from the festival was enough to turn people away, and we don’t see it fair for all of the community members to be punished for one mistake that happened three years ago. We want to see Keene move forward from this incident and instill the once-exciting tradition back into the community again.
The New Hampshire School District 29, SAU29, which includes Keene, Chesterfield, Harrisville, Marlborough, Marlow, Nelson and Westmoreland, is seeking to raise funds to hold the Pumpkin Festival taking place on Main Street.
According to the Pumpkin Festival website, the district has a goal of $26,550, which goes towards pumpkins for 3,400 children and city expenses. As of Sept. 17, they have already raised $24,269 towards the event.
We think having the downtown Pumpkin Festival is important because it benefits the businesses in downtown Keene more than the Monadnock Pumpkin festival, which will be happening at the Cheshire Fairgrounds. The Monadnock Pumpkin festival won’t draw everyone away from downtown, but the businesses won’t have as much involvement.
Though both festivals are an opportunity to bring the community of Keene together, we would like to see the City Council vote to keep the festival downtown so that we can watch our local businesses thrive that weekend and so that the town and community both can move past what happened in 2014 and go forth in a more positive direction.