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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pumpkinfest A Glowing Success

Each year,we New Englanders have a chance to become child-like again months before December, at Keene New Hampshire's annual Pumpkinfest. While it's true that I unleash my child-like self every day as a writer, Pumpkinfest is something special.
The annual event is devoid of any kind of festival pretense. What causes the town's Main street to close isn't an admission-paying event, but thousands of community-minded individuals schlepping their jack-o-lanterns like prized possessions.
They'll be hoisted onto scaffolding, some 50 feet high. And if you don't bring your own on Pumpkinfest day you can scoop out the flesh of the state's national fruit(yes, pumpkin is a fruit), and create faces that, once lit with a candle, make magic.

Between 16 and 30 thousand jack-o-lanterns (I'm not kidding),miraculously show up via shopping carts, radio flyers and by the armful.

I can't tell you how much of a rush is it to donate a dollar at the carving station and create one, because I'll admit, it makes me cry. Slicing through a sweet,gardeny-smelling pumpkin and watching a character take shape also gets my Halloween juices flowing.
Sharing the experience with family, sneaking glances at them as they carve out their expressions on gourds with Picasso-like concentration, is a moment I savor until next year.

Then there's the costume parade, where thousand of kids and their families march down Main Street
They wave at us revelers like it's their coronation.
And after, the 40 or so food vendors are kept busy--boys scouts frying up apple donuts, hand-cut fries at the Legion, and the best apple-cranberry turnovers at the women's singer's booth, rivaling the Waldorf school's pumpkin-curry soup.

As dusk approaches,residents get out their bic lighters and start making the pumpkins shine. It goes quiet. The moment's too awesome for words. Just gasps of delight.The two towers, higher than the town's trees, are impressive enough. But it's the mismatched gourds of all shapes and sizes gathered around lamp posts,lining fences and carved by kindergartners that catch my eye.
Walking home amongst the blaze of lights, my little niece doesn't say much. She's too busy smiling and skips to her house then climbs into her Angry Bird costume. Because Halloween comes a good week early every year in Keene. And that's cause for a celebration.