The Hippo


Nov 13, 2019








Another attempt will be made this year to break the Guinness World Record of most lit pumpkins. Courtesy photo.

New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival

Where: Downtown Laconia
When: Saturday, Oct. 24, 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Cost: Free admission. Some activities have a fee.

Every pumpkin matters
Pumpkin Festival debuts in Laconia

By Angie Sykeny

Nancy Sporborg created the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival — formerly the Keene Pumpkin Festival — 25 years ago with the idea that every person makes a difference, and a community can accomplish anything.

On Saturday, Oct. 24, approximately 40,000 people are expected to congregate in downtown Laconia for a massive celebration of all things pumpkin, and to attempt the Guinness World Record for the most lit jack-o’-lanterns in one place.
“When people go [to Pumpkin Fest] and they bring their carved pumpkin … they have the opportunity to know that they are part of that community and to know that they matter and that their contribution to the whole counts,” Sporborg said.
Traditionally held in Keene, Pumpkin Fest was relocated to Laconia after the Keene City Council relinquished the festival due to a rioting incident last year. Over a dozen towns from New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Vermont vied to take ownership of the festival, but with the persuasion of Laconia Motorcycle Week event manager Charlie St. Clair, Laconia was deemed the best location.
Various activities, entertainment, vendors and more will be held throughout the downtown area.
“[Canal Street] will be a major vein, as will the cheek-to-cheek [pumpkin] display lining Main Street,” Ruth Sterling, event manager, said. “But … there will be something to see in every nook downtown.”
Hit the ground running at 9 a.m. with the Runaway Pumpkin 10K & 5K Run/Walk. A scenic course will take runners and walkers through the WOW Trail, which circles lakes Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam and Opechee.
The festival officially begins at 10 a.m. with food and craft vendors and the opening of PumpCANALy, the hub of family activities on Canal Street, which will be completely painted orange. PumpCANALy will have face painters, caricaturists, balloon artists and photo booths, as well as ongoing games like the pumpkin ring toss and fishing for pumpkins and scheduled games like musical pumpkins (1 p.m.) and pumpkin pinatas (10:30 a.m.). Entertainment will include a block party with dancing and music, a magic show (11:30 a.m.) and a cartoon story time (2:30 p.m.).
Several businesses around town will also contribute to the fest. The library will have crafts (11 a.m.), story time (2 p.m.) and a showing of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1 p.m.). Imagine Gallery will have face painting, crafts, music and artwork. Head to Belknap Mill, the oldest unaltered brick textile mill in the U.S., for Mayhem at the Mill, a haunted attraction. The Bank of New Hampshire on Pleasant Street will host the Community Carving Center, where you can carve a pumpkin if you didn’t bring your own, and pumpkin bowling (noon to 6 p.m.).
Go bounce around at Opechee Park, where there will be numerous themed bounce houses including Spiderman, Frozen, SpongeBob and more, plus a slide.
Take The Pumpkin Express for a 45-minute scenic train ride around the lakes, offered from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Kids can show off their costumes at the Children’s Costume Parade at 12:30 p.m. The parade will begin on Church Street and will be led by Cinderella’s pumpkin coach from Story Land.
Pumpkin Festival’s claim to fame, the 35-foot Pumpkin Tower, can be found around New Salem Street along with thousands of jack-o’-lanterns on street-level displays and live music. Jack-o’-lanterns for the Guinness World Record attempt will be accepted until 6:30 p.m., at which point the lighting will begin. Organizers will then tally an official count of the pumpkins and announce the results at 8 p.m.
The fest will end at 8:30 p.m. with the Pumpkin Dump Derby, a race in which teams will compete to clean up their assigned area the fastest. The winning team will receive a $1,000 donation for the charity of their choice. All teams who complete the challenge will receive $100 for their charity.
“People from the world over have felt drawn to the Pumpkin Festival,” Sporborg said. “They see the power of community and want to be a part of that magic. And they will be drawn to it in Laconia for the same reasons.”

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