Tuesday, October 13, 2009


I have enjoyed going to this festival since the early 1990s.
It is always a huge decision what my pumpkin design will be.
One year I decided to do an OM symbol.
Another, Wallace & Gromit,
and another, my "dentist chair" Grimace Face.
This year I'll probably do "The 1896 HOUSE"...(easy enough). Look for it! (No, I won't be carving "Williamstown, MA" into it! Jiminy whiz people!)
This event happens in the pretty and quaint college town of KEENE, New Hampshire. While it is an hour and 45 minute drive from the 1896 House, it is certainly a pleasant journey (and great destination). It's a quick enough return to a well deserved and comfortable night’s rest at our country motel afterwards.
This is a festival that celebrates PUMPKINS and the joy of Autumns’ crisp changing season, fun costumes and major comfort food. Keene has terrific shops and restaurants and is well worth the drive to get there.
This year’s festival is being held on SATURDAY OCTOBER 17th from 10am until 9pm, ending with a brilliant Fireworks display (which is something to see behind the thousands and thousands of glowing , lit pumpkins).
Keene has won a 8 world records in the Guinness Book for having the MOST LIT PUMPKINS at one time…this record has since been broken recently by the Boston festival, so Keene is keen (pun) on getting their title back THIS YEAR. 28,952 lit pumpkins (their record) in one small town square is an incredible view.
The creativity and magic of artists like you and I is phenomenal. I love looking at all the individual pumpkins. Some groups spell out their names in pumpkins. There is such a variety of styles and artistic ability. Some are truly artistic masterpieces.
I always get inspired seeing the various designs and funny cartoonish carvings.
I have taken photos over the years to help describe what you will encounter, but, much like the Grand Canyon, a photo is not at all the same as BEING THERE and taking in all the atmosphere, music, crowds and fun. It is an event to remember forever.
Once you arrive in Keene, travel a bit to find a remote parking lot, so you don’t have to pay $10 at the official lot in the nearby Cheshire fairgrounds. Keene is a small town and parking is not a forte’, so you have to really hunt about a half mile away, then walk to the festival.
If you absolutely cannot find a parking spot on your own and have to go to the costly fairground, make sure you wear warm clothes and comfortable shoes. After the festival is over, there is quite a wait in line for the shuttles to come get you, and it’s very very COLD in Keene after 9pm at night in October. Bring a heavy jacket. Even if the sun is shining and it feels like 65 outside, heed my advice here. I usually wear a lined heavy jacket and a scarf and gloves... and still chatter my teeth around 8pm.
So you bring in a pre-carved pumpkin and register it at one of the entrance stations. They give you a votive candle (.50 cents) or you can bring your own and you can place the pumpkin wherever you want on the scaffolding or on the ground. Look for an area that people aren’t tramping around to get across the road. Many pumpkins get damaged from falling off the scaffolding, so secure your pumpkin well. It has to be carved and lit to count in the World Record, so no drawn on pumpkins.
Admission is free.
You can take your pumpkin home after the festival is over (around 9pm after they have announced the count on a loudspeaker), which is usually right before the fireworks show.
The daytime part of the festival is mainly for kids and locals…outside of scoring a slightly better parking spot, there is no benefit to going to this fest before 3pm.
There is a costume parade for kids at noon, but most of the pumpkins are not even placed yet (people bring them in all day), and until they are lit, the pumpkins are not quite as exciting to view. If you leave before they are lit, you are not really experiencing the true pumpkin fest, so go later in the day to stay after nightfall.
There are lots of food vendors…you guessed it…pumpkin pie galore! There are many other food offerings as well. I'm going to try the "blooming apple" with caramel sauce...sounds good!
Here is the official list of vendors for this year:
2009 Food Vendors
American Legion Baseball Post #4: Chicken burgers, chips, chocolate chip cookies, American Legion Post #86: Grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, sausages, American Red Cross NH West: Hot dogs, chili, pumpkin dessert, Animaterra Women’s Chorus: Turnovers, apple, spinach and feta, fruit, hot and cold cider, Boy Scouts of America Troop 286: Hamburgers, hot dogs, apple crisp, CHAD (Children’s Hospital of Dartmouth): Hamburgers, Italian sausages, drinks, baked goods, City of Keene Partnership: Bratwurst, sausage, sodas, Cobb Meadow School: Chicken teriyaki on a stick, garlic bread, black bean soup, The Community Kitchen, Inc.: Whoopie pies (pumpkin/chocolate) coffee, tea, hot chocolate, cider, Delta Phi Epsilon: Nachos, bowls of chili, Federated Church of Marlborough: Pizza, pumpkin whoopie pies, beverages, Harrisville Children’s Center: Frito boats, cream puffs, cobblers, hot/cold cider, Immaculate Heart of Mary School: Caramel apples, candy apples, hot chocolate, Interact: Cotton candy, hamburgers, hot dogs, beverages, JC’s Dawgs: Hot dogs, chili/ cheese, baked beans, chips, KHS Friends of El Salvador: Cotton candy, hamburgers, hot dogs, beverages, KHS Girls Basketball Booster Club: Hot dogs, chili, pumpkin pie, KHS Interact: Fried dough, water, Miracles in Motion: Nacho with cheese or chili, beverages, Monadnock Covenant Church Youth Group: Funnel cakes, caramel apples, drinks, Monadnock Covenant Church: Meatball, steak/cheese, sausage, pepper/onion subs, soda, water, Monadnock Waldorf School: Indian roasted vegetable sandwich, flavored popcorn with choice of spices, Montessori Schoolhouse: Blooming apples with caramel sauce, maple cotton candy, pumpkin parfait, NH Farm Bureau Young Farmers Committee: Shepard’s pie, broccoli soup, pudding, Peterborough Children’s Choir: Pumpkin pie, baked goods, hot/cold cider, Peterborough Diner Softball League: Hamburgers, baked beans, soup, Phoenix House, Dublin Center: Hot pretzels, popcorn, beverages, R& H Tae Kwon Do: Hot dogs, hamburgers, muffins, Special Olympics NH: Sausage, pepper/onion grinders, beverages, Student Rotarians: Fried dough, water and soda, Sullivan Fire & Rescue: Pulled pork, beef brisket sandwiches, chips, baked goods, Surry Village Charter School: Pulled pork, soup, apple crisp, Swamp Bats: Hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, drinks, Troy Fire Dept.: French fries, chicken fingers, sausage subs, Walpole Village School: Hot dogs, chili, tacos, Westmoreland School: Kettle korn, Westmoreland United Church of Christ: Pumpkin whoopie pies, pumpkin pie, baked beans, beverages, Winchester Girl Scouts: Fried pickles
OH BOY! Glad there are a lot of THESE!
I also love going through all the craft tents over on the side street by the train station...Here are the offerings for this year:
2009 Craft-Vendors
Clark’s Sugar House: Maple Products Crème de la Curry: Hand Painted Metal Bells Center Stage: Festival Merchandise Dancingbird Art Jewelry: Jewelry Family Signs: Wood signs Heidi Jo’s Jerky: Beef Jerky Hudson River Inlay: Wood Inlay Mirrors, Artwork, Furniture JenMarie Creative Jewelry: Jewelry Josephine’s Extreme, LLC: Hot Peppers, Jams and Specialty Food Mel’s Hellish Products, LLC: Sweet and Hot Pepper Relish Meow’s & Bow-wow’s Custom Pet Products: Pet Products Name Hats: Handmade Hats Nelson’s Candy: Candy Nummy’s Choice: Glass Art Nut Free Bakery, LLC: Baked Products The Nut Lady, LLC: Baked Nuts Old Maps: NH Towns on Old Maps, Perla Lei: Jewelry Plush Quartz Art Glass: Hand Blown Glass Scentastics 2 LLC: Fragrance, Soaps, Aromatherapy Scorpio Jewelry: Jewelry Scrunchie Heaven: Hair Designs Secrets Lake Tattoo: Art Display. (Appointments only). Silhouette Factory Outlet: Decorated Salt & Pepper Shakes, Metal Signs Silver Fox Jewelry: Jewelry, Sweetest Memories: Candy Toan Hand Carving: Wood toys, Tiffman Handbags: Handbags and accessories, Tylers Sweet Revenge: Jams, Jellies and Pumpkin Butter, Vermont Design: Handmade Ornaments, Wax on Tap: Hand-poured Soy Candles, Wee-People: Hand Puppets, Dolls on Swings, Children’s items, What Your Name: Wooden Roses, Insect Jewelry, Hand Carved Frames, ZPOTS Studio Pottery: Pumpkin Lanterns, Pottery
Keene always has cool festival sweatshirts and T shirts (which you may need to buy if you didn’t listen to me earlier and dress warmly).

I love going into the stores like the antique consignment shop and the music store, and I visit all the pumpkins!
Every year, there is some kind of mechanical pumpkin creation. One year, it was this vampyre in a casket that actually raised itself and had red juice pumping into it by a straw!
There is a measured lined chart on the sidewalk over by the train station for PUMPKIN SEED SPITTING contests. They leave it there after the official contest is over (in the morning), so you can “spit” and see how you rate against the winner. Wee-o! There are bands playing most of the day, a rock climbing wall and other adventure activities, costumed characters walking around,( like baked potatoes, pumpkin men and safety mascots).
No dogs are allowed, outside of service dogs, and that’s a good thing, because the crowds get so dense in the afternoon, your pet could get hurt or stomped on.
Get your pumpkin registered by 5:30 because they start the lighting and the COUNT at that time. You can help volunteers light the candles in each pumpkin if you have a lighter handy.
They use a crane to light the big towers of pumpkins (these are erected the day before at a special “Community Night” pre-fest). It's fun to watch the "transformation" from day pumpkin to Lit pumpkin.
OK, so you are travelling and have NO Pumpkin? NO PROBLEM!
They have a pumpkin carving station where you can get one any size out of a huge bin for $5 and clean and carve it yourself right there. They provide the tools to scoop and carve.
You can get one that is pre-cleaned (yay!), and it is $10 (but SO worth it…I hate cleaning out the pumpkin yak).
I usually register and place my pumpkin somewhere safe, then walk around to the stores and craft and food vendors. You can get some great items, like maple products, chocolate, novelty handbags, jewelry or scarves (again, if you under-dress!).
This is no fashion show and no one will see your shoes (it is way too crowded!), so dress for COMFORT - not the red carpet.
Restaurants on the Main Street are much nicer than the side street diner, but the Food Vendors set up in the middle of the streets are terrific and faster.
I'd recommend eating from one of the vendors. Sure, you may have to sit on the curb, but rough it! It will be fun. Don’t waste your time waiting in a 30 minute line for restaurant food…it’s worse than normal on this day because they are literally too busy to care if it tastes good or if it’s cooked right. The only good thing is you get to sit down in a chair.
It is amazing the community spirit Keene has the morning AFTER the festival, when they (volunteers)start CLEANING UP at around 5:00am ...by noontime, there is no trace of the 70,000 or so people and 30,000 pumpkins on the grounds!
I am looking so forward to this! Hope you decide to go too!
Enjoy the pumpkins!

Route 7 NORTH to Bennington VT. First RIGHT in town to ROUTE 9 EAST and follow all the way to KEENE, then follow signs in town to the Main Street event. Roads are blocked all around the center, so look for parking along the side roads.

Comments or questions? Apparently the comments section on Blogger is not functioning. e-mail me at Celebrate@1896House.com