Last week, I was watching the Weather Channel in the morning, and heard Nicole Mitchell mention the Keene, NH Pumpkin Festival. I have a niece who lives in Keene, so I had heard about the Pumpkin Festival before from family members. But until Nicole talked about it on national television, I had no idea how big it really was. I guess I was imagining carved pumpkins by the hundreds, maybe a few thousand, but not the tens of thousands. At Keene’s first festival in 1991, they had 600 pumpkins, and by 2003, they set their 8th world record for the most lit jack o’lanterns at one time with 28,952 pumpkins. I can’t even imagine what that looks like. It must be awesome. The photo above shows just a tiny fraction of Keene pumpkins. Clearly, when you’re talking pumpkin festivals, you’re talking Keene.
So I was pretty excited when I read that there would be a Pumpkin Festival in Ladysmith, just a short drive from the Bowling Green Harvest Festival. We could easily hit both festivals in one afternoon. Now I wasn’t expecting anything approaching Keenesque proportions, but I was thrilled to be going somewhere where the jack o’lantern was king. This festival was held in the community of Ladysmith Village (one of those “traditional neighborhood developments” like Idlewild), and was part of a national fundraising campaign, sponsored by the Life is Good folks (those guys who are making a fortune selling stuff with their logo), to benefit local charities, in this case, Caroline County’s Habitat for Humanity. The festival was held on a big grassy field, and featured a few vendors and a bluegrass band, but the emphasis was clearly on the pumpkin carving. The organizers had a goal of carving and lighting 1,400 pumpkins (a drop in the Keene bucket...pumpkin chump change), but the festival wasn’t particularly well-attended (just a few hundred people), so I don’t know if they made the goal. The crew of young volunteers were certainly carving like crazy. This year, we didn’t stay into the evening for the pumpkin lighting, but it’s going to be an annual event, so we’ll get another chance next year.
The scaffolding that holds some of the finished pumpkins, with some of the pumpkins carved with letters to spell out the name of the event, and other messages. Apparently this is a key ingredient of pumpkin festivals:
The bluegrass band, Milford Station: