As the days are crossed off the calendar, college students everywhere start preparing for the spookiest time of year! Halloween weekend, or as it is better known by its young participants, Halloweekend, is making its annual visit.
As the costume stores pop up and the fabric sections of craft stores are emptied, witches, mummies and skeletons alike fill the streets. The streets of Keene, however, are lined with something more than trashy costumes and beer cans. Pumpkins overflow the scene as part of the annual Keene Pumpkin Festival. Pumpkin Fest holds a happy place in many hearts of residents and Keene State Alums, but for others, the fest brings back hurt feelings.
Starting in 1991, The Keene Pumpkin Festival originated from the harvest festival and had continued on for 23 years. Residents, college students, and members of the greater New England area would come out to see the thousands of pumpkins’ light up main street. According to the Boston Globe in 2014, Pumpkin Fest took and ugly turn. College-age rioters hit the streets, students from all different institutions took part in the night’s dangerous festivities. Police officers were forced to end the night with tear gas and shut down the Keene State College campus. The pumpkin festival was shut down for the next 3 years, starting again last October, but on a much smaller scale.
Now both the city of Keene and Keene State College are preparing for Halloweekend. The college has set up activities on campus, and safety measures have been put in place to keep students busy and provide opportunities to those who don’t partake in party culture. Coordinator of Student Activities and Organizations Britany Gallagher said, “My job here is to provide things to students that they are interested in. That might include keeping them safe if they partake in binge drinking culture, but also providing things for those who do not partake in binge drinking or even drinking in general.”
Last year on campus, Keene State had a significant drop in students staying on campus during Halloweekend. Director of Campus Safety and Compliance and Title IX Discrimination and Harassment Coordinator Jeffrey Maher said, “I was here last year for Halloween and the campus was quiet, there were not a lot of students out and about.” In hopes of keeping the students here, Gallagher said she believes the office of Student Activities and the on campus club SAC (The Student Activities Council) have put together fun and spooky events. Gallagher gave out a list of activities going on the weekend of October 26 to 28. On Friday 26, there will be Pumpkin Lobotomy and an illusionist. On Saturday 27, there will be a trip to Salem, Massachusetts, a movie marathon from 3 to 11 p.m., and a monster mash dance party. Lastly, on Sunday 28, students are encouraged to volunteer to help out at the Pumpkin Festival downtown, and in the evening there is a performer “summoning” spirits.
Pumpkin Lobotomy is back after a three year hiatus. Lobotomy was a tradition dating back to the first few years of Pumpkin Fest. Student Body Vice President Sydney Olson said, “I’m excited for a long standing tradition like this to come back to campus, faculty and staff are even more excited to see how we go about this and how it plays out.”
When asked if the school is trying to keep students from downtown on Halloweekend by providing all of these events, or if the town is trying to keep students away, Gallagher replied, “I don’t necessarily have that sense, especially talking about wanting students to get out there and volunteering at the festival itself. At the end of the day we’re all residents of Keene and we should all have a vested interested in not just the school, but Keene as a town, as a safe and fun place for everyone to be.”
Jeffrey Maher gave out some advice on how to stay safe over this spooky weekend, “The primary message I would have is the message all of our students receive when they go through orientation, it’s called bystander intervention. It really just means look out for each other, so if you see something that isn’t safe or isn’t healthy, to step up to and be a good friend to someone to in need. If it is not right, step up and address it or notify someone who can.”
Adriana Daniel can be contacted at