The Keene Pumpkin Festival began in 1991 as school children brought 600 Jack O’ Lanterns to ring Central Square. The celebration was a great success and the event’s organizer, Nancy Sporborg, began making plans for the f … show more
Keene Pumpkin Festival History
The Keene Pumpkin Festival began in 1991 as school children brought 600 Jack O’ Lanterns to ring Central Square. The celebration was a great success and the event’s organizer, Nancy Sporborg, began making plans for the following year. The idea of earning certification as a Guinness world record spurred growth. In 1992, a team of certified public accounts documented 1,628 pumpkins participating in the second Keene Pumpkin Festival. That total ultimately won a place in the 1994 Guinness Book of World Records. Soon, however it was eclipsed by 4,817 carved pumpkins. Keene was off to the races in celebrating with carved pumpkins. More and more records poured in as Keene reached new levels of pumpkin mania. The capstone came in 2003 with 28,952 carved pumpkins and a crowd of 70,000. All this in a town of 25,000.
Catching pumpkin fever, Boston began a similar festival in competition with Keene. They ultimately took the crown on October 21, 2006 with 30,128 carved pumpkins in support of Camp Sunshine. Keene rallied in 2009 with 29,068 Jack O’ Lantern, setting a new town record but not quite catching Boston’s mark. After 2010’s Keene Pumpkin Festival, Center Stage Cheshire County, the organization staging the festivals ceased its sponsorship, citing the progressively higher costs, donor exhaustion and risks of larger crowds in the confined space of a small downtown. As of spring 2011, a new organization led by Ruth Serling is poised to redesign the festival for this fall’s season on Saturday, October 20, 2012. Information on the upcoming festival is at the Pumpkin Festival 2011 website.
Even as records were made and broken, the event’s founding organizer, Nancy Sporborg, emphasized the value of the event for its community participation. For her - and Keene - community was always more important than the numbers. Now, following Keene’s lead, Pumpkin Festivals can be found in many towns throughout New England. Perhaps the amazing...