Laconia Pumpkin Festival grows to two days

By John Koziol
Union Leader Correspondent
August 24. 2017 10:42PM
Scenes from the inaugural New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival held in downtown Laconia in 2015. (John Koziol/Union Leader Correspondent)

LACONIA — The 2017 New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival is expanding from one to two days, and some of its carvers will be featured on the Travel Channel.

The successor to the Keene Pumpkin Festival, which in 2015 failed to get approval from the city to return after rioting that occurred the previous year, the Laconia festival has added a full slate of activities on Friday, Oct. 13.

Those activities will complement the events slated for Saturday, Oct. 14, which ends with the lighting of jack-o’-lanterns and the count for a Guinness Book world record.

Karmen Gifford, president of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce — the official festival organizer — said the decision to grow the event came when it was realized that most of the downtown would already be closed to traffic on the Friday before, and that vendors and exhibitors would be in place as well.

“We’re excited about adding more attractions,” among them Miller Amusements on Friday and a Zombie Walk on Saturday, said Gifford.

There will be a 200-foot zipline on Main Street; Canal Street will again become a children’s playland and all of Hanover Street will be transformed into a giant carving station.

Pumpkins carved on Friday can be placed onto the 30-foot tall display tower in Veterans Square, but they will not be lit and counted toward the world record until dusk on the following day.

Gifford hopes to have 20,000 jack-o’-lanterns this year, which would eclipse the Laconia Festival‘s previous two attempts but would still be 10,582 short of the record, which was set in Keene in 2013.

Despite her tempered expectations, Gifford does have high hopes, noting that the chamber has given out roughly that many packets of pumpkin seeds to schools and businesses and the early indications are that “we’re going to have a phenomenal crop.”

Earlier this week, Gifford issued a casting call for expert and amateur pumpkin carvers, saying that producers have told they are interesting in filming at the festival for a show that would be featured on the Travel Channel.

Pumpkin carvers who’d like the chance to become famous are asked to email photos of themselves, their carving buddies and past jack-o’-lanterns, to jen@simplealien.com with the subject line of “BEST IN PUMPKIN.”

The Laconia Pumpkin Festival is one of three similar festivals in New Hampshire this October.

On Oct. 21 at the Cheshire Fairgrounds, the Monadnock Pumpkin Festival also returns for a third year, while in Keene the event known as the “Keene Pumpkin Festival brought to you by the children of SAU 29” harks back to a simpler time and, say organizers, heals some of the wounds of 2014.

Let it Shine, Inc., the nonprofit that organized the Keene festival from 2011-2014, hopes to place 5,000 jack-o’-lanterns in Central Square, saying on its website that “While this proposed event is much smaller in scale, we are convinced that the message this pumpkin festival provides might be one of its most profound. This event will be focused on the children of SAU 29, their unique wisdom and perspective, and the simple joy of carving pumpkins.”

None of the pumpkin festivals compete with each other, said Gifford, and all linked by their love of the orange gourd.


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