Keene tops Ill. counterpart in 'Pumpkin Wars,' wins more than $29,000 for education
By MEGHAN PIERCE
Union Leader Correspondent | October 31. 2012 10:38PM
Almost two weeks after disappointingly coming short by about 1,500 jack-o-lanterns of breaking a new world record, the Keene Pumpkin Festival was declared victor in the competition against a rival pumpkin festival in Illinois during the HGTV realty show special "Pumpkin Wars" Wednesday night.
Keene festival officials announced its count of 29,381 pumpkins at the close of its event on Oct. 20.
“It's not the world record, but it's a number we can be tremendously proud of,” Keene Mayor Kendall Lane told a crowd of thousands gathered around the Central Square bandstand at the conclusion of the pumpkin festival this year.
Keene was 1,538 shy of the world record set by The Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival of Highwood, Illinois, last year with 30,919.
Following the festivals, both held on the same day, the Highwood festival keep mum on its count, but Highwood Park News reported that Highwood boasted about 38,000 jack-o-lanterns.
No official count had been released until the one-hour TV special aired Wednesday night.
Though Highwood utilized an assembly line approached in its town's Department of Public Works building, its final count came up about 6,000 lit jack-o-lanterns short with about 22,000 jack-o-lanterns, Pumpkin Wars revealed Wednesday night.
Each festival had a Guinness Book of World Record official at their events to officiate each count.
Volunteer counters were assigned to sections to count the jack-o-lanterns, and then over a five minute period the counters had to negate any unlit or extinguished jack-o-lanterns from their count.
Festival and city officials that made the announcement in Keene festival night were clearly disappointed they had failed to break the world record the festival has held 8 times since originating the Guinness category of the most carved and lit pumpkins back in 1991.
However, they held out hope the $1 for each pumpkin match offered by Discover Card to the winning festival would be theirs. The money would be donated by the winning festival to an educational non-profit cause.
Festival night Matt Towson from Discover Card stood on the bandstand in Keene's Central Square holding a supersize check over his head with the amount $29,381 payable to the Keene festival for an educational cause to be chosen by festival runner Let it Shine, Inc., with input from the community.
Ruth Sterling, event manager for Let it Shine, happily accepted the oversized check and said the money would go to the Keene School District if it turned out Keene had bested Highwood.