Many lit jack-o-lanterns in Keene brings in cash for schools
By MEGHAN PIERCE
Union Leader Correspondent | December 13. 2012 8:33PM
The Keene Pumpkin Festival this October didn't break the world record for the most carved and lit pumpkins, but it won the "Pumpkin Wars." (MEGHAN PIERCE/Union Leader Correspondent)
Keene High School Interact, Keene State College and Wheelock School topped the recipients by being awarded $5,000 each.
The money was donated by Discover Card to organizers Let It Shine Inc. to be given to local non-profit educational organizations chosen by festival organizers.
"I'm proud to be part of an organization that not only brings the Pumpkin Festival to Keene but also is able to give back to the community in the spirit of the festival. Next year it would be exciting to have more pumpkins and even more money from Discover," Lisa Edwards, interim Let it Shine board president, in the announcement on Wednesday night.
During the Oct. 31 HGTV airing of the one-hour reality special "Pumpkin Wars," festival organizers learned they had not surpassed the 2011 world record for the most carved and lit pumpkins, but had won the Discover Card challenge.
"Pumpkin Wars" followed efforts behind the Keene Pumpkin Festival and the Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival of Highwood, Ill., both held Oct. 20.
A few weeks before the festival, Discover Card announced to would grant the winner a dollar for each jack-o-lantern and $10,000 to the losing festival.
With 29,381 jack-o-lanterns, Keene was about 1,500 jack-o-lanterns short of breaking the Guinness Book of World Record for the most carved and lit pumpkins that had been set by Highwood last October.
Keene, however, had won the Discover challenge after Highwood counted only 22,000 jack-o-lanterns this year.
The money awarded was to be donated by the festivals to local educational non-profits chosen by festival organizers. Wednesday night, Let it Shine Inc. announced it had decided to bestow the money on 16 educational organizations starting with $5,000 each for Keene High School Interact, Keene State College and Wheelock School.
The Cheshire Children's Museum was awarded $4,500, ConVal Scholarship Foundation was awarded $3,000, Keene Montessori School with $1,500 and Fuller Elementary School with $1,000.
The Franklin, Jon Daniels, Symonds, Cutler Elementary, Mount Caesar Elementary and Marlborough schools were all awarded $500 each. MoCo Arts and the Keene Senior Center were also awarded $500 each, and Nelson School was awarded $381.
Deb Ganley, executive director of the Cheshire Children's Museum, said it was a wonderful surprise to learn Wednesday night that the museum had being awarded $4,500.
The money given to the museum is to be used to create new educational programing, she said.
"We're delighted of course," Ganley said. "We want to bring more programing to the museum and one of them is creative learning through art and the other is to strengthen math skills."
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Meghan Pierce may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.