On Wednesday, Sept. 7, the cities of Highwood, Ill. and Keene, N.H. accepted the 2011 Pumpkin Festival Challenge.
Both cities will attempt to break the current Guinness Book of World Record for the most lit pumpkins in one location, 30,128 pumpkins, which is currently being held by Boston and has been since 2006.
The Mayor of Highwood, Ill., Charlie Pecaro and the Alderman of Highwood, Ill., Eric Falberg joined the Mayor of Keene, P. Dale Pregent at the Lane Hotel on Main St. in Keene to officially establish the challenge.
Oct. 22, 2011 will mark the 21 annual Pumpkin Festival in Keene and the third annual Pumpkin Festival in Highwood.
Alderman Falberg said Highwood adopted the Pumpkin Festival after he witnessed Keene’s Pumpkin Festival. Falberg, who used to live in West Dover, Vt. and was the owner of the Snow Goose Inn, a bed and breakfast, thought the rich community involvement brought by Pumpkin Fest was something he wanted to bring to Highwood.
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“It’s bigger than the Guinness, it’s about community,” Falberg said. “It’s something that’s etched in your memory for life.”
With a young family of his own, Mayor Pecaro said Pumpkin Festivals are a way to build memories. “The history here [in Keene] is so rich,” Pecaro said. “And every time you say Pumpkin Fest the community is mentioned.”
Although Highwood, Ill. is a small city with a population of 5,000, which is approximately the size of the student population at Keene State College, Pecaro said the city of Chicago is only 28 miles south.
Alderman Falberg said Highwood went from 3,000 pumpkins at their first Pumpkin Festival in 2009 to 26,287 pumpkins at their second Pumpkin Festival in 2010.
According to “Orange Towers: 20 Years of the Keene Pumpkin Festival,” written by the staff of the Keene Sentinel, Keene’s numbers compare.
In 2009 Keene welcomed 29,762 pumpkins and in 2010, 22,943 pumpkins.
“We stand a very, very good chance of beating Highwood,” Mayor Pregent said.
The winner of the 2011 Pumpkin Festival challenge will receive a trophy, which currently resides in Keene. “If you win we will ship it to you,” Pregent said.
In return, Alderman Falberg said, “If we lose we will be shipping a boat load of food from Highwood.”
Highwood is known for its restaurants and bakeries, Falberg said.
Although a trophy, food, and bragging rights are at stake between Highwood and Keene at the 2011 Pumpkin Fest, both Mayors Pregent and Pecaro along with Alderman Falberg agreed that the enrichment Pumpkin Festivals bring to a community is the top dollar prize.
Founder of the Pumpkin Festival, Nancy Sporborg agreed.
“It’s not about the record or the money, these are bi-products; it’s about community participation,” Sporborg said. “We are honored to accept the challenge from Highwood,” she said.
Alderman Falberg said due to the one hour time difference, the announcement of the number of pumpkins at Highwood’s Pumpkin Festival will take place at 7 p.m. Central Standard Time and the announcement of the number of pumpkins at Keene’s Pumpkin Festival will take place at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
“I think we are both going to beat the word record,” Alderman Falberg said. “You never know, it could be a tie.”
Jordan Cuddemi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org