Dangerous riots bring chaos to Pumpkin Fest

Videos of a street lamp being shaken down, people overturning a car, police barricades, helicopters and text messages telling people to go home manifested at this year’s annual Pumpkin Fest, as festivities located around Keene State College took a turn for the worse this past Friday and Saturday Oct. 17 and 18.

In the Keene Police log from Saturday Oct. 18, several disturbances, liquor law violations and requests to keep the peace were cited, with arrests made.

Although no numbers have been confirmed, CNN affiliates in a CNN article reported “dozens of arrests” and the Southwest New Hampshire Mutual Aid Dispatch Center reported “multiple ambulances being sent to the scene.”

Early Saturday morning mass text messages were sent out from the college to the student body, urging students to return to their residences.

“The number and size of gatherings tonight are unsafe conditions placing you and local residents in harms way. Please return to your residences immediately,” the messages read, “Ongoing distributive behavior will result in significant disciplinary action. The current situation is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.”

The text messages ended with numbers for the Keene Police Department and KSC Campus Safety being provided, asking students to “look out for each other.”

Kelsey Osborn / Contributed Photo

Kelsey Osborn / Contributed Photo

The events on Saturday escalated as the day progressed, with The Boston Globe citing bottles thrown, street signs being uprooted and things being set on fire.  The article stated witnesses said “police responded in force, with canine units, SWAT gear, tear gas, tasers and pepper spray.”

CNN quoted New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan in a released statement which read, “State and local public safety officials are on the scene and have been working closely together to defuse the situation. We will continue to monitor the situation and provide any assistance necessary to Keene.”

A witness quoted in an article from The Boston Globe suggested that a majority of the destruction was caused from out-of-state visitors as they stated, “Thousands of students and visitors pour in from out of town for the event, and witnesses said most of the disruption was caused by college students from surrounding schools, including the University of New Hampshire, the University of Rhode Island and University of Massachusetts.”

However, President Anne Huot noted that she and the college are “mindful that Keene State students played a part in this behavior,” and stated that individuals involved will be held accountable for their actions.

“I am saddened and disheartened at the events surrounding this year’s Keene Pumpkin Festival,” President Huot said in the released statement, “Despite the concerted efforts of organizers, city officials, police, and Keene State College, there continued to be disruptive behavior at parties in multiple locations around the city, injuries, and property damage.”

President Huot continued, “Yet, despite the well-coordinated plan and best intentions of so many, including weeks of communicating to students parents, meetings with landlords, and coordinating efforts with local and state authorities, together, we were unable to influence the outcome of this event that was predetermined a year ago.”

“This is an issue that we can only solve together and we, at Keene State College, are eager to renew in earnest the conversation that leads to meaningful change,” Huot said.

At least 75 to 100 students, faculty and Keene residents arrived early to campus on Sunday morning, Oct. 19 to help clean up the campus and city streets, according to KSC student Marisa Morrison. Morrison was eager to shed light on the reasoning behind what was dubbed “Campus Cleanup.”

“I think it’s important that we show the public that we do love this town and this community and a majority of the damage done was not done by Keene State students and that we can shed light on the bad things that happened by doing what we can to fix it,” Morrison stated, “It hit a lot of people hard that this isn’t just a tradition to the college but it’s a tradition to the families in the area and knowing that that might not happen anymore is heartbreaking. That’s why we did it.”


See this week’s Oct. 23 edition of The Equinox for more coverage on Pumpkin Fest and its aftermath.


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