Pumpkin Fest. Two words that mean more to the Keene State College community and the larger Keene area than any other. These two words also have the ability to simultaneously generate enormous excitement and—from those who choose to stay indoors and away from the crowds—fear. This year’s Pumpkin Fest proved to live up to the infamy it has garnered over the past 22 years—from the increase in registered pumpkins (29,186 this year compared to the “measly” 16,186 last year) to the increased police vigilance and a hard stance on parties.
Although for some Pumpkin Fest means a one-time shot to get as drunk as possible, the festival continues to provide a family-friendly atmosphere amidst a town sometimes overrun with college students who remain unconcerned about how their drunken antics affect others. With the help of extra police reinforcement and hundreds of volunteers, Keene transformed from a college town with a reputation to a place where families and friends could explore all of what the area has to offer—both in terms of local products and music.
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Throughout the festival’s history, the focus has always been on providing an atmosphere of celebration and festivity. However, there remains a tension between what constitutes as “festive” and how people choose to celebrate. Public drunkenness and disorderly conduct are two consequences of the fine line between celebration and irresponsibility. Although people are free to spend Pumpkin Fest however they choose—whether that be in a state of consciousness or not—they should always remain aware of how their antics and actions are affecting those around them, particularly towards those who are choosing to celebrate the day in a sober fashion.
Being drunk—regardless of what special occasion it may be—is no excuse for aggressive, disruptive or otherwise socially irresponsible behavior. While the choice to drink to the point of oblivion may be somewhat sanctioned on Pumpkin Fest, it should be questioned why this may be the case.
We as Americans have an interesting and oftentimes contesting view of alcoholic consumption, one which other industrialized countries—such as Canada and places in Europe—do not maintain. This is partly due to our higher age requirement for alcohol, but also to the fact that Americans are infamous for overindulging. When we view only one or two days out of the year as days to “get wasted” we effectively create an atmosphere of expected intoxication on those days. This, in turn, often gets used as an excuse for antisocial behavior.
Overall, the majority of people who decide to participate in the drunken experience of Pumpkin Fest do not go out of their way to cause disruption or distress for those around them. However, those who do decide to harass police officers, destroy property, and damage that which is not theirs should recognize that their behavior affects not only themselves, but the entire Keene community. We have all heard over and over again how Pumpkin Fest is the most crime-filled time of the year, but it seems that we still have failed to try and change that. It is a personal choice to celebrate in whatever way; it is not the community’s responsibility to excuse or accommodate behavior that may result from poor decision-making. Though Pumpkin Fest may inherently create an environment where social sanctions against drinking are lifted temporarily, in the morning we are still here to deal with the aftermath.
Hannah Walker can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org