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Main Street in Keene was jack-o-lantern central during the 22nd annual Keene Pumpkin Festival Saturday. (MEGHAN PIERCE PHOTO)

Pumpkin fest

Keene Pumpkin Festival sets lit jack-o'-lantern record

KEENE — Organizers of the Keene Pumpkin Festival reached their goal of setting the world record for the most lit jack-o'-lanterns Saturday night.

"Tonight this is the center of America," Keene Mayor Kendall Lane told the crowd gathered in Central Square Saturday night. "Tonight we have achieved 30,581. Tonight we hold the world record."

The festival had to beat the Guinness Book of World Record of 30,128 set by a 2006 pumpkin festival in Boston organized by Life is Good.

The 22-year-old festival that attracts about 80,000 people to the city each year originated the Guinness category in 1991 with 600 jack-o'-lanterns and went on to set the record a total of eight times.

Last year Keene nearly reclaimed the record with 29,381 lit jack-o'-lanterns.

The world record attempt was bolstered this year by Keene business C&S Wholesale Grocers, which donated 20,000 pumpkins to the public days before the festival. Festival attendees continued to drop off carved pumpkins throughout the festival, which started at noon.

When the sun started to set, the job of lighting the jack-o'-lanterns that lined Main Street and filled Central Square began. Then, at 6:50 p.m. festival-goers were asked to stand still and quiet while a team of volunteers scanned their assigned sections for unlit jack-o'-lanterns.

Guinness adjudicator Kim Partrick and state senator Molly Kelly, as the independent witness, officiated the count.

"The pumpkins are beautiful, but you are outstanding," Kelly said to the crowd gathered for the 8:15 p.m. announcement.

"I can verify all world record guidelines were followed," Partrick said.

Cheers rang out throughout the square at the announcement and organizers, including Ruth Sterling of Let it Shine Inc., and festival founder Nancy Sporborg, linked arms and started chanting "bring it home."

During the festival, 28-year-old Trevor Hunt of Jaffrey broke another Guinness world record, for the most jack-o'-lanterns carved in one hour.

He beat the record of 102 with 135 jack-o'-lanterns carved.

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