The Keene City Council voted unanimously last week to put the permit for this year’s Pumpkin Festival on hold.
Organizers are planning for a scaled-down festival compared to previous years. But councilors are now expressing concern that they could see a repeat of the riots that broke out in 2014.
NHPR’s Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with Councilor Janis Manwaring by phone on Monday.
The council granted a license for the festival back in June. What has changed since then?
Well I think several things actually have changed and are of concern to us. When we granted the original license, we asked them, we couldn't demand it, but we asked the group if they would change the name. We all know when we Google Pumpkin Festival we're going to get Keene and we're going to see images of 2014. And so we have said to them if you keep the name we're going to monitor the social media. And I personally am not a Twitter person so I can't tell you what is going on Twitter, but we heard from Keene State and their safety and security people that things were heating up on social media, and that part of what they were hearing is that this could be a party weekend.
And you heard this specifically from the president of the college?
Yes. There was a meeting of Keene, of like the mayor, and the chief of police, and the fire department with the same type of folks at Keene State, including the president. And there they were really worried. And so we really can't ignore that, especially if it's our own chief of police and fire chief.
It’s not a party day. It's a party weekend. And if there is lots of alcohol use then it starts out on a Thursday or Friday night. I mean it's just sort of feeds on itself.
The rioting that happened in 2014 we should say also was really adjacent to the festival itself, the festival being a family event. And this was just used as an excuse for some people to come in and make trouble. In your opinion what needs to happen for the pumpkin festival to make a comeback in Keene?
Well as one councilor suggested, how about the name Jack-o-lantern Jamboree? I mean to not have that pumpkin festival title.
You feel the name is a connotation that it’s just not going to be able to outlive?
Well because it really, part of this is social media. I mean I called up Pumpkin Festival 2017 Keene, New Hampshire, and up came up all the 2014 stuff as well as one, there was only one thing for this year's event. So you know it sort of brings that up. And if you're in that mindset I think it's like oh here's a party.