For some Keene State College students, Pumpkin Fest may be a day of celebration, with few concerns and even fewer responsibilities. For student-athletes in season, however, the day is joined by an opportunity to show a commitment to their team. It only takes a quick look at their schedules to notice a pattern: the field hockey, volleyball, cross country and soccer teams all played Saturday, October 19. All teams aside from the volleyball team faced Little Eastern Conference foes. “We have a meet every year on Pumpkin Fest,” cross country coach Peter Thomas said. You could chalk it up to chance, but some coaches admit the scheduling is a bit more deliberate.
“Abso-freaking-lutely we have a game on Pumpkin Fest,” volleyball coach Bob Weiner exclaimed. “I planned it to be an away game this year.”
Weiner’s zealous response makes more sense with context. On last year’s Pumpkin Fest, his team entered a conference match expecting to win comfortably, only to squeak a win out in five arduous sets. The team had played poorly, and Weiner later learned that some players had broken the 24-hour alcohol rule that prohibits the team from drinking the day before the game. “Girls were arrested, they had spent the previous night in jail,” Weiner said, still showing signs of disbelief. “They basically left the drunk tank, put on a uniform and played.” Needless to say, suspensions followed, and it was certainly a learning moment for a team that at the time filled half of its roster spots with freshmen. Thomas, who has seen his fair share of unruly behavior in his 29 seasons at KSC, was also a bit concerned in the time leading up to Pumpkin Fest.
“I’m sure we’ve had problems [on Pumpkin Fest] in the past, although nothing’s immediately coming to mind,” Thomas said. “I’m a little worried about our team on Saturday night. Field hockey coach Amy Watson doesn’t consider Pumpkin Fest any more of a problem than other times of year.
“You just hope that they make the right decisions all of the time. It’s no different for Pumpkin Fest than any other weekend for us,” Watson said. “They know they have to put field hockey first.” While Weiner, Thomas and Watson didn’t implement any special curfew rules for their teams, the coaches made their expectations clear. “We’ll try to press the leaders of the team to make sure that everybody makes wise choices, we always want them to stay out of trouble during Pumpkin Fest,” Thomas said. “Over the last few years it’s evolved from a really good activity to college students creating more of a ruckus and taking away from a nice event.”
Weiner, perhaps still scarred from last year, was more blunt. “If we have any sense that stuff happened, not only will we suspend them, but we’ll suspend them for so long that their children won’t be able to play here,” Weiner said.
Players without games on Saturday found other ways to put their team’s footprint on Pumpkin Fest. Rugby player Gavin Taylor provided music for Friday’s Pumpkin Lobotomy on campus, and the hockey team once again helped clean up the town on Sunday, starting bright and early at 8 a.m. Head Hockey Coach Bobby Rodrigue started the mandatory annual clean up, and Alternate Captain Taylor Adolphson said the team understands his motives. “It’s important because [Keene] is our hometown and it makes our team look good,” Adolphson said. “We want to show we support the community and respect the community.”Watson only sees the positives of field hockey games on Pumpkin Fest.
“I think it’s actually nice because they love to play and they love Pumpkin Fest,” Watson said. “It’s like they get two things they really like in the same weekend.” Weiner similarly hopes his team enjoys what he considers a holiday.
“I want them to have fun, with legal and safety issues taken into consideration,” Weiner said. “Pumpkin Fest is great, we get New Year’s Eve in October, what could be better?”
Zach Winn can be contacted at email@example.com