CLAREMONT — City councilors unanimously voted in support of the city pumpkin festival Wednesday night.
“We got their blessing to go ahead, and we’re filing the permits today,” Nichole Sorenson said Thursday.
Sorenson is a member of Claremont Citizens Group, which has proposed holding the first New England Pumpkin Festival downtown on Oct. 17.
“We took a consensus vote. We all approved of the concept of a pumpkin festival, as long as they get their permits in order,” Assistant Mayor Victor Bergeron said.
The city’s permit committee is made up of all city department heads and the city attorney, Bergeron said.
“They are going to meet and if there are any problems, they’ll come back to the council,” he said.
The general advice from the City Council to organizers of the festival was “start small and build,” he said. “We’re hoping it’s successful. We’ll have to wait and see. We have a process to follow, and we’ll see how the process goes.”
City councilors asked the festival planners to set a cancelation date in case they cannot raise the funds in time for a fall festival. The councilors also asked that organizers pay in advance for any anticipated city services, Sorenson said.
“They were cautiously optimistic, I would say, but they were all in support of the concept of a pumpkin festival,” Sorenson said. “They want to make sure it’s safe. They want to make sure residents don’t pay more in taxes. As long as those terms are set, they were OK with it.”
Claremont Citizens Group plans to raise money to pay for any needed city police, fire and Department of Public Works staff for the festival.
Organizers will work with department heads such as police Chief Alex Scott on the city parameters and time span of the event, Sorenson said.
“In this permitting process, we need to negotiate back and forth on what is the geographic area, where this event is being held,” she said.
Organizers would like to incorporate Pleasant Street as part of the festival setting to give downtown businesses the boost a festival like this can give.
“It’s a lot of work, but I’m really excited about the amount of people who have been stepping forward,” Sorenson said, including people who were once involved with the Keene Pumpkin Festival.
In answer to concerns that a pumpkin festival would take away from other fall events in the city, such as the Claremont Fall Festival and Chili Cook-Off on Oct. 10 and Claremont Brewfest on Oct. 2, Sorenson said she believes a pumpkin festival taps into a different segment of the community.
“I have a family; I have two young girls,” Sorenson said.
Neither the Chili Cook-Off nor the Brewfest are events for families like hers, who have young children, ages 2 and 4, she said.
“(A pumpkin festival) would be a nice event for lots of families to go to, that they could get involved with.”
Sorensen admitted a lot of work will have to take place to mount a pumpkin festival in five months.
“There is a lot of work and it’s going to be exhausting, but it’s going to be fun and it’s going to be really good for this area,” she said.
Pumpkin seeds are to be distributed to city school children soon since any pumpkins to be grown in time for the festival should be planted before the end of May, she said.