Pumpkin Festival returned to Keene this past weekend after a three-year hiatus. Hosted by Let It Shine, the festival took place at Central Square in downtown Keene on Sunday, Oct. 29.
This year’s festival focused on the children of the School Administrative Unit 29 (SAU29) by having pumpkins displayed the children had carved, games and chances for children to get candy from downtown businesses. Let It Shine Board Member Tim Zinn said the children are the heart of what Pumpkin Festival is about. “I love kids and it is great to see them happy and having a good time,” Zinn said.
In a note on the Let It Shine website, the organization stated, “The schools and school children have always been at the heart of the Keene Pumpkin Festival. When we [the board of directors and event team] think of the festival, we think of kids’ smiles, their joy, their sense of wonder as they explore the festival. The heart of the festival is the children.”
This year’s, Let It Shine Pumpkin Festival comes eight days after the third annual Monadnock Pumpkin Festival. The Monadnock Pumpkin Festival brought in a big crowd, according to The Keene Sentinel. Creator of the Monadnock Pumpkin Festival Jennifer Matthews said last year, the festival brought in over 6,000 people, and according to The Keene Sentinel, Matthews predicted that the one this year had even more.
During this year’s festival, it did rain, but that didn’t stop many families from attending the event. While the attendee count is not known, Zinn predicted that there were about 3,000 to 3,500 pumpkins in total.
Having the Pumpkin Festival centered solely around children is a big change from what the festival was like in past years. Previously, Pumpkin Festival included vendors, and this year, there were none. Zinn said, “As much as it benefits non-profit, we needed to make it pure and about the children this year.”
The other major difference between this year’s festival to past years is the size in which the festival takes place. This year’s festival was completely on Central Square. Keene resident Lindsay Dewees mentioned the major difference. “It’s good that it’s back. I am used to seeing Pumpkin Fest with a big tower with a face on it. There used to be pumpkins up and down the street. After the incident a few years ago, I was really sad and couldn’t talk about it for the longest time. I am glad that it is back, even if it isn’t as big.”
Keene Police Department Lieutenant Shane C. Maxfield said he thinks the people who managed this year’s festival made a smart decisions when deciding how big the festival would be and when it would be. “The organizers made wise choices in terms of making it more manageable. Having the festival on a Sunday afternoon helps the family factor and the timing of 1:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. helps to prevent problems from happening that had happened in the past.”
Downtown businesses took part in the festival by allowing children to come into their business and receive candy. Fairfield Inn & Suites Front Desk Agent Kelsey Bailey said she thinks it is really fun for the children to be able to go into places and get candy. “I think it is going great. It makes people glad. Allowing children to come into the lobby and take candy gives us a good reputation and, if successful, it could get bigger.”
Monadnock Imaging is also taking part in allowing children to come in and get candy. Store Manager Mike Torska said, “People are out and about. It is good exposure for my business. I was one of the biggest supporters of Pumpkin Fest. Anything to try to improve downtown is welcome.”
Along with the chance to go into businesses to get candy, children also could get candy by playing games, such as knocking over cups from a stack of hay and participating in a beanbag toss. Two volunteers at the festival, Roman Snegach and Angelica Snegach, are siblings who said they used to live in Keene and decided to come volunteer because of how much they enjoy the atmosphere of the festival. Angelica said, “I am glad that this year is being focused on kids. I think that it is a good thing that the festival is back and I think they will work their way up to a bigger festival again.”
KSC students also were at the festival. Sophomore Angela Haglund said she really liked the environment. “It’s a feel-good environment. It should be about the kids and their costumes,” she said.
Colby Dudal can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org