Laconia to host 2015 New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival

By JOHN KOZIOL
Sunday News Correspondent
April 25. 2015 9:25PM
Smiles were the order of the day Friday as Let It Shine, the non-profit group that since 2011 has produced the Keene Pumpkin Festival, announced that the 25th festival will be held in Laconia on Oct. 24. During a press conference at the Laconia Train Station in Veterans Square, the announcement was hailed, left to right, by Ruth Sterling, of Let It Shine; Amy Landers, executive director of the Lakes Region Tourism Association; Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, who approached Sterling about bringing the festival to Laconia; Karmen Gifford, executive director of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce; and Laconia Mayor Ed Engler. (John Koziol/Union Leader Correspondent)

LACONIA - It's official. The event that for the past 24 years has been known as the Keene Pumpkin Festival has a new name and new venue.

During a 1 p.m. press conference Friday at the Laconia Train Station in Veterans Square, representatives of Let It Shine, the non-profit that has produced the Keene festival since 2011, announced the 2015 event will be held on Oct. 24 in the City on the Lakes and will be known as New Hampshire's 25th annual Pumpkin Festival.

Twenty-two days earlier, officials in Keene denied Let It Shine's application to hold the festival in that city following rioting at the 2014 festival that saw more than 100 arrests.

Disappointed that the state, not just Keene, was potentially losing a signature event, Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, reached out to Ruth Sterling of Let It Shine and later they met in Laconia along with members of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce and the Lakes Region Tourism Association.

Sterling said Laconia, which every June hosts the nine-day Motorcycle Week rally, was a logical choice for the 2015 festival, which will be presented by ZIPPO and produced by Let it Shine.

While details have yet to be worked out, including where the pumpkins will be displayed, Sterling said it was possible that trains from the Hobo and Winnipesaukee railroads may bring visitors to downtown Laconia for the festival.

In announcing the festival has a new home, Sterling stressed the positive.

Over its history, the pumpkin festival has brought joy to many people; set a world record two years ago for most lit jack o' lanterns displayed; and was named a "best specialty food event," said Sterling, who added that the thought of the festival being "over" was a disturbing one.

She and fellow organizers began hoping for a miracle, said Sterling, "And that's just what happened" when St. Clair, came forward and suggested the festival consider coming to Laconia.

Each year, in addition to Motorcycle Week, which cumulatively brings about 250,000 visitors to the Weirs and Laconia, the city also hosts the Laconia World Championship Sled Dog Derby and, in recent years, the Laconia Multicultural Market Day.

That combined experience with large events, coupled with the enthusiasm she has received from all levels of the Laconia community, said Sterling, clinched the decision to bring the festival here.

Addressing what she said were about 17 other municipalities that also wanted to host the festival, Sterling said Let It Shine board of directors on April 22 voted to coordinate with other communities holding their own pumpkin festivals on Oct. 17 - potentially including Claremont, Nashua, Hampton Beach and Keene -so that their pumpkins can be preserved and brought to Laconia for the 24th.

Laconia Mayor Ed Engler said that in polling the six-member city council - which will formally consider the matter at its Monday meeting - pumpkin festival had the council's unanimous support.


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