LACONIA — Representatives of more than 40 schools in the Lakes Region yesterday began collecting some 4,200 pumpkins, which the students will spend the balance of the week carving in preparation for displaying them at the Pumpkin Festival on Saturday.
Early in the morning the pumpkins arrived at Visa Foods in cardboard bins loaded aboard a tractor-trailer from Newmont Farm in Bradford, Vermont and were off-loaded by a forklift. Ruth Sterling, who is managing the festival for Let It Shine, Inc., said that Belmont Elementary School, Gilford Middle School and Woodland Heights School all requested more than 400 pumpkins while Elm Street School, Laconia Middle School and Pleasant Street School each asked for about 300.
Sterling said that that the carving parties at the schools, many of them drawing parents as well as students, are one of the highlights of the festival. "This week is when the kids make the festival their own," she said.
Several officers of the Laconia Police Department, along with members of the Public Works Department and off-duty firefighters, were on hand to help with distributing the pumpkins. "I put out a call on our Facebook page," Sterling said, "and they just turned up. I've never had anyone in uniform help out before," The officers and firefighters tossed the pumpkins from bins to trucks, apparently with only one casualty.
Walt Gladstone, who owns and operates Newmont Farm, said that he grows pumpkins on 175 acres while raising corn on another 1,100 acres and caring for 1,400 Holstein cows and 1,300 heifers. The pumpkins are sold to grocery stores throughout New England. But, Gladstone said "the grocery stores only want the perfect ones." He said that with the harvest in full swing and frost in the forecast "we were concerned to get the pumpkins off the ground, but worked hard to get ahead of it." Gladstone said he was pleased Laconia had chosen to host and perpetuate the festival.
Sterling said that the farm has stocked the festival with pumpkins for years as a favor. In addition to those distributed to the schools expects as many as 3,000 more for the community carving center at the Bank of New Hampshire before the week is out.
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