October 10. 2012 11:32PM

Pumpkin Day fetes students who lobbied for state fruit

Union Leader Correspondent

Six years after Governor John Lynch went to wells Memorial School in Harrisville to sign a bill naming the state fruit the pumpkin into law, he returned Wednesday and reunited with the Pumpkin Kids, including 16-year-olds Johnny Silk, Matthew Stone and Rusty Wilder, former Wells students who proposed the bill to state legislatures. (MEGHAN PIERCE/Union Leader Correspondent)
HARRISVILLE — Gov. John Lynch met up with the Pumpkin Kids at Wells Memorial School Wednesday and talked with current students about the monumental achievement of 15 Pumpkin Kids who lobbied the state in 2005 and 2006 to name the pumpkin the state fruit.

Hanging over the cafeteria in the small grade school of just over 40 students is a banner that reads Wells Memorial School, Home of the Pumpkin Bill.

Last year, after realizing many students had no idea what the banner meant, current principal Emily Hartshorne instituted annual Pumpkin Day.

Students dress in orange, participate in a pumpkin-themed crafts or activities and most importantly learn about the 15 third and fourth graders of the school who in the 2005 and 2006 school year drafted and presented the Pumpkin Bill to state legislators.

Twelve of the Pumpkin Kids, who are now high school sophomores and juniors, returned to Wells Memorial on Wednesday to reunite with Lynch, who signed the bill into law at the school in the spring of 2006.

“You got big,” Lynch said to Johnny Silk, 16, of Harrisville who now attends Keene High School.

Their retired teacher Kathy Frick also attended.

State government and history was part of the curriculum, she said.

“We were reading about some kids in Florida who had lobbied the governor to officially make the orange their state fruit. And they asked me 'does New Hampshire have a state fruit?' And I said I don't know and so I looked it up and told them it didn't and they said, 'Can we do that,' and I said 'I don't see why we couldn't.'” The students wrote their testimony, testified to state legislators and lobbied, she said.

“They filed the bill in the fall and they signed it into law in the spring.”

Former state Rep. Dave Babson of Ossipee also attended the Pumpkin Day, saying it was the best experience of his 13 years in the state house.

“I was chairman of the committee when the bill came through,” he said. “The best part was when the parents would come up to me and say, 'I learned more than my kids did.'” Lynch was surprised when Babson said he had asked a Concord apple grower to testify for the apple instead.

“I called him up and said you can't have these kids come in here without any competition,” Babson said.

Silk was the student who without hesitation defended the choice of the pumpkin to legislators as opposed to the apple saying it was already the state fruit of many states, including Vermont. Still the argument stung at the time, he said.

“There were so many states' that had apples as state fruit that we were shocked,” Silk said.

Lynch and the Pumpkin Kids told the story of the Pumpkin Bill to the current students of the school and their memories of its passage.

Most bills do not end up becoming laws, Lynch explained. “It's very, very hard to get a bill passed into law.”

“I think it was pretty amazing that us kids could have such an impact on adults twice the size of us,” said Galena Walker, 17, of Harrisville, who is a Keene High School sophomore.