22 Annual Keene Pumpkin Festival goes big


Sam Norton

A & E Editor


“I remember the very first Pumpkin Festival and it was the beginning of the idea ‘Wouldn’t it be wonderful is we had children and families come down into the center of Keene and have a Pumpkin Festival,” State Senator Molly Kelly said, “There were 600 pumpkins and we thought we were just great and so successful and this would be wonderful. Now, we are trying to break a record of 38,000 so every year it has gotten bigger and better.”

The year 1991 marked the beginning of an era—an age that started the craze and competition for the most pumpkins lit. After 1991, Pumpkin Festival’s original event organizer, Nancy Sporborg, began making plans for the following year about developing the festival even more.

Today, more people are involved in carving the pumpkins, even the businesses located on Main Street, which will all help the city of Keene reach their goal, Senator Kelly said.
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“I really think it makes a difference. But the whole intent is to have fun, bring your family, your friends, and be downtown,” Kelly said.
What is helping to make this difference is Pumpkin Fest making the event more community based. Senior Shannon Poirier said, “It is not just limited to the college, it is more community-based.”

And what is contributing to this festival becoming more community-based is students’ involvement. Junior Lisa Bryant said, “It used to be a time to party, but everyone is excited for all of the stuff we have for student clubs.” The focus of Pumpkin Fest is starting to shift away from being an excuse for college students to party, and is starting to incorporate all members of the community.

“Keene State is a big part of our community, a part of our family,” Kelly said, “This year because of the media attention, businesses as well as families and the community are coming together.”

And what they are coming together for is to reach the new world record of pumpkins lit.
The year 1991, the city of Keene had a total number of 600 pumpkins lit. In 1992, the city was awarded their first Guinness World Record with 1,628 pumpkins lit; in 1992 Keene received their second Guinness World Record with 4, 817 pumpkins, followed by, their third Guinness World Record in 1994 with 10, 540 pumpkins. The city went on to continue to win five more world records, bringing them to a total of eight. Their eighth

Guinness World Record symbolizing 28, 952 pumpkins lit. However, the city’s personal best is a total of 29, 762 pumpkins lit in 2009, this year’s total fell short by 381 pumpkins, coming in at a total of 29, 381. Even though the city of Keene fell short of their goal, this year’s Pumpkin Festival helped spread recognition of the event across the New England region.

Interim President Jay Kahn said, “I think the competition with other communities, who are trying to replicate what we are doing in Keene, is adding a national interest in the kind of festival and community event that we have been able to hold,” he continued, “It has grown into one of the fall festivals for New England. Regardless of the competition, it is going to attract people.”
Junior Kelsey Bumsted said, “Freshman year, it (Pumpkin Festival) scared me. It was like a crazy circus of people. Last year, it was clean and family oriented.”
Senior Stephanie

O’Donnell agreed that student clubs and student organizations are making more of a point to recruit more members into their organizations.
And this type of involvement is helping students feel more comfortable with the college campus.

Sophomore Annie McCaffrey said, “I’m having more fun this year because I am more involved and more comfortable.”
However, students’ involvement in the Pumpkin Festival activities is not the only aspect of the event that has changed, the number of guests and the party activity has also had to adhere to new rules and regulations.

Sophomore Erik Radermacher said that the guest policy is one of the biggest changes. Now, students who live on-campus are allowed one guest each, which will limit the amount of out-of-state students who visit during the weekend.

But this new guest policy is not helping dispel the rumors of what Pumpkin Festival is to some students. Freshmen Alyssa Tyuiodi and Kylie Flynn said that they knew of Pumpkin Festival as being a crazy time to party.

But, Bryant and Bumsted noted that this year the Keene Police Department and Campus Safety were patrolling more than usual.
Over the past 22 years, the Keene Pumpkin Festival has grown into an event that has become more community-based.

It is no longer solely about the college, or the residents of Keene—rather, the event has evolved in order to unite and help beat the city’s record.


Sam Norton can be contacted at


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