Keene Pumpkin Festival back on

Sunday News Correspondent
September 24. 2017 12:27AM
The Keene Pumpkin Festival has been given a second chance from city. (Meghan Pierce/Union Leader Correspondent)

KEENE - The Keene Pumpkin Festival regained its permit from the city Thursday night in a split vote that required Mayor Kendall Lane to break the tie.

Half of the 14 city councilors at Thursday night's meeting said that with the chatter on social media about the festival returning after a two-year hiatus, it was too risky. The other half said the city and Keene State College both need a chance to redeem themselves and the proposed scaled down child-focused pumpkin festival should not be rejected.

Festival organizers were granted a permit last month, but after security concerns arose, the council decided to revisit the vote.

When Lane realized it could be a tie vote, he stopped councilors' discussions Thursday night and said he would vote for the festival if it came to him.

The festival, set for Oct. 29, will be 1/10 the size of the pervious event with no vendors and a voluntarily cap of 5,000 pumpkins.

City Councilor Randy Filiault also voted for the festival, saying he was going on his "gut," and believes the city can pull off a festival on a Sunday afternoon without attracting troublemakers.

"It's clear that this is one of these votes that we get periodically that are dammed if you do and dammed if you don't," Filiault said.

Other city councilors said they were voting against it because both the city police and fire chief were concerned over social media chatter about the festival.

The Keene Pumpkin Festival began as a small harvest festival in 1991.

Over the years the weekend festival made Keene a party mecca for college students and other young adults from across New England.

In 2014, during the 24th annual Keene Pumpkin Festival, riots broke out in a college neighborhood outside of the festival footprint.

When Let It Shine returned the following spring for approval for the 25th Annual Keene Pumpkin Festival in 2015, city councilors denied the permit.

Tim Zinn of Let It Shine proposed the scaled-down, child-focused festival as a way to bring the event back for families and as a way of healing.

Zinn said Friday he wants to spread the word that the festival this year has a local focus.

"We love the pumpkin faithful from beyond our region, but this festival is about healing, second chances, life lessons, celebrating 3,200 heroes in our local school system and giving the dity, Let It Shine, and Keene State College the opportunity to shine together once again," Zinn said.

The festival planned will be 1/10 the size with no vendors and a voluntarily cap of 5,000 pumpkins. The festival is also to be held on a Sunday afternoon.

"Safety is everyone's primary concern, including ours. We have been, and continue to work with, the City of Keene and city staff to cover all the bases and provide a safe and enjoyable event. Keene State College has made significant progress in culture change and off-campus student accountability. They will be implementing a zero tolerance policy leading up to and after our event," Zinn said.

He added the festival is only $2,000 shy of its $28,000 fundraising goal. The money will pay for pumpkins and city services.

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