Pumpkin Riots

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Organizers of Keene’s pumpkin festival have met their funding goal, but they are still soliciting donations for the event.

The festival once drew thousands to the area breaking world records for the most jack-o-lanterns in one place, but this is the first year it’s returning since 2014. That’s when riots broke out involving students at Keene State College.

Robert Wilson/flickr

A bid to bring the pumpkin festival back to Keene prevailed Thursday night after an unexpected last minute challenge from local officials.

Keene's mayor cast a tie-breaking vote at the city council meeting to allow the event to go forward.

In the past, the festival has broken world records for the most lit jack-o-lanterns in one place. But it was canceled in 2014 after riots broke out. Now. organizers are planning a much smaller, kid-focused festival.

Jeff Dell/Flickr / https://flic.kr/p/5wMPqa

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?

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After a two-year hiatus, the annual Pumpkin Festival has the final go-ahead from the city of Keene to return this fall.

The Keene City Council voted Thursday night to approve its license pending certain conditions. Those include organizers covering the costs of any city services used at the event. And Keene is requiring the festival to take out a million-dollar insurance policy that covers the city.

Jeff Dell / https://flic.kr/p/5wMPqa

The Keene City Council will soon decide whether to approve the return of the Pumpkin Festival. At its peak, the festival drew tens of thousands of people to Keene and set world records for the most lit Jack o' lanterns in one place. But the event was canceled after riots in 2014.

Now, a proposal for a scaled down version will head to the city council for final approval next week.

Robert Wilson/flickr

  After a two-year hiatus, organizers of the Keene Pumpkin Festival are hoping to bring a revised version of the event back to the city.

Organizers have filed a request with Keene officials to hold a festival in October that would be smaller in scale than what the city hosted in the past.

At its peak, the Keene Pumpkin Festival drew tens of thousands of people to the city, setting world records for the most lit jack o'lanterns in one place.

Farrukh via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/armk7P

Michael Fosberg grew up in a middle-class white family – and didn’t discover until his early 30s that his biological father was black. Today, a conversation about race, identity and personal discovery with actor Michael Fosberg.   Also today, autumn habits gone wrong. We’ll talk to a writer argues that apple- picking is a big fat scam. And, after more than twenty years of carved pumpkins and big crowds, Keene, New Hampshire will be quiet this weekend. We’ll ask residents how they feel about the loss of a long holiday ritual. 

The Keene pumpkin festival may have moved to Laconia following last year’s riots, but the Monadnock region will still have a pumpkin festival this fall -- in nearby Swanzey.

Jennifer Matthews, who is organizing the new Monadnock Pumpkin Festival, said she wanted to find a way to continue the storied event after the Keene City Council decided not to host the pumpkin festival this year.

“We had two options," Matthews said, "either no festival or change the festival. And no festival didn’t sit well with me and a lot of other people.”

Selbe B via Flickr/CC

The New Hampshire city of Laconia will host this year's annual Pumpkin Festival after its long-time host city declined to issue a permit following violence near last year's event.

At the announcement in Laconia's historic train station Friday afternoon, Mayor Ed Engler said its experience hosting an annual motorcycle festival gives officials a good handle on security and public safety.

He says there are no "huge concerns" about security in the city of about 16,000.

Courtesy Kaitlyn Coogan / Keene Sentinel

Keene State College will reimburse the city of Keene for police over-time incurred during last fall’s Pumpkin Fest riots.

The bill for the police response to rioters during the Pumpkin fest was $90,000 dollars. The festival’s organizers, Let It Shine Inc, has already paid $59,000, but said that it should not be responsible for the whole bill. Keene State announced Let It Shine will make another payment and then the college will cover whatever remains.