No jack-o-lantern record set, but record crowds flock to Laconia for Pumpkin Festival

By JOHN KOZIOL
Union Leader Correspondent
October 15. 2017 8:18PM
With a 30-foot tower of pumpkins in the background, the flag pole in front of the Laconia Public Library was a popular place during the 2017 New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival. (JOHN KOZIOL/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

LACONIA — What it lacked in jack-o-lanterns, the 2017 New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival made up for in attendees.

“We had record-breaking crowds,” said Karmen Gifford, the president of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, which estimated more than 40,000 came to the downtown event on Friday and Saturday.

But alas, no Guinness Book world record. That record was set on Oct 19, 2013, according to Guinness, when 30,581 jack-o’-lanterns were lit at what was then the Keene Pumpkin Festival.

The following year, however, rioting near the festival prompted Keene officials not to allow it to return in 2015.

The festival found a home in the City on the Lakes and in its first year, recorded nearly 11,000 jack-o-lanterns in 2015.

The hope was to have 20,000 carved gourds this year, Gifford said.

She said the weather couldn’t have been any better and a new traffic plan kept the festival to the area immediately around Veterans Square, creating a cozy, “block party” feel.

There were “bands on every street;” a zipline that was “non-stop the entire time;” she said, and, economically, “this was a huge boost to our downtown businesses.”

The 2017 pumpkin festival also boasted the inaugural “zombie walk” that drew several hundred participants on Friday the 13th and the first rubber-duck derby on the Winnipesaukee River.

Taylor Hicks, who won the fifth season of American Idol and now hosts a INSP network program called “State Plate,” was at the pumpkin festival on Saturday for four hours, said Gifford. He was filming for an upcoming episode.

The show focuses on a state’s iconic food, Gifford explained. When Hicks learned that the New Hampshire state fruit is the pumpkin, he asked to come to the Laconia festival.

jkoziol@newstote.com


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