Laconia students plant seeds in anticipation of NH Pumpkin Festival

By John Koziol
Union Leader Correspondent
April 20. 2017 8:01PM
In a unique end to Thursday's ceremony announcing the Oct. 14 return of the NH Pumpkin Festival to Laconia, more than 100 local school children, assisted by adult volunteers, planted pumpkins in the Bank of New Hampshire parking lot. (John Koziol/Union Leader Correspondent)

LACONIA — More than 100 schoolchildren planted pumpkin seeds Thursday in anticipation of this fall’s New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival — evidence that the annual event has taken deep root here.

The students from the Pleasant Street, Woodland Heights and Holy Trinity schools scooped potting soil into pint-sized plastic planters and were given several seeds and a marker to identify their individual potential pumpkins.

The mass planting followed a news conference in the Bank of New Hampshire parking lot during which Karmen Gifford, the executive director of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, proudly announced that the Pumpkin Festival — which originated in Keene — was coming back to Laconia for a third year, bigger and better than before.

“We’ve submitted a weather request for a cool, dry fall day,” Gifford began, with a tongue-in-cheek reference to the 2016 festival, which, while well attended, was buffeted by wind, rain and cold.

“We have been listening,” Gifford continued, adding that the chamber was “learning each year” and working hard to improve the festival, which was founded in Keene in 1991 and culminated each year with an attempt to set a world record for the most lit jack-o’-lanterns.

The current record — 30,581 — was set at the 2013 festival in Keene. Laconia’s first two efforts both fell short of the record, but organizers point out that it took several years before Keene hit its record-breaking mark.

The festival ended up in Laconia after the 2014 Keene pumpkin festival was marred by people rioting in and around the campus of Keene State College. That prompted Keene officials to deny a permit application for the event’s sponsor, Let It Shine, in 2015.

Worried that the festival would be discontinued, Laconia resident Charlie St. Clair reached out to representatives of Let It Shine to bring the festival to the City on the Lakes. The Laconia Chamber of Commerce assumed sole operation of the festival in 2016.

The 2017 event will be staged the weekend of Oct. 14, and will be more like a “street festival,” said Gifford, with activities again concentrated in the area of Veterans Square.

Gifford said this year’s festival will also feature amusement rides and a monster fun house.

Laconia Harley-Davidson will again host a live entertainment venue; the Shipyard Brewery will operate a beer tent; and the Bank of NH property will have an additional pumpkin display.


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