People, pumpkins aplenty at 2017 NH Pumpkinfest

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Maude, Scott and Hugo Aldridge check out the giant pumpkin tower during Saturday evenings Pumpkin Fest in downtown Laconia.  (Karen Bobotas/forThe Laconia Daily Sun)


LACONIA — There wasn't a record-breaking number of illuminated pumpkins, but the number of people at the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival over the weekend made the event a success, organizer Karmen Gifford said Monday.

“We couldn’t have asked for better weather,” said Gifford, president of Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. “It was picture perfect. We anticipated over 40,000 attendees. We did not break any Guinness Records, but based on the crowds that continued to grow throughout the day Saturday and into the evening, the number of attendees far exceeded our expectations.”

Many people failed to bring a pumpkin.

“Experiencing this year’s street festival was more important than bringing along a jack-o'-lantern,” Gifford said.
Live music was an attraction throughout the evening and, at one point, drones aloft showed a crowd that was elbow-to-elbow throughout the festival area, Gifford said.

“There was live music in Veterans Square, Main Street and Beacon Street West,” she said. “The zip line and kiddie amusement attractions were a big hit. Local restaurants and merchants were great ambassadors to the City of Laconia. From horse-drawn hay rides, a zombie walk, costume parade, Riverside Duck Derby, a variety of delicious foods including the Great Pumpkin Cook-Off and even a TV production crew filming ‘State Plate,’ hosted by season 5 American Idol Taylor Hicks.”
The pumpkin record was set at 30,581 when the festival was held in Keene. The event moved to Laconia three years ago.

She said an attempt was made to count the pumpkins, which included 855 on a 34-foot-tall tower, but it quickly became obvious the record was not in jeopardy. There may have been about 5,000 pumpkins, all told.

The pumpkin-carving station was busy throughout the festival.

“There were constantly 20 people carving Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., when we ran out of pumpkins,” Gifford said. “Some used our tools, and some came with their own. It was definitely cool to see people enjoying themselves.”

Reuben Bassett said his restaurant, Burrito Me, had its best business day ever, eclipsing its previous high set at the festival two years ago. Festival crowds were limited last year because of rain.

“We were very pleased with the turnout,” Bassett said. “We had a line to the door for three-plus hours.”

The dates for New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival 2018 have been set for Oct. 12-13.

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Julie Pitman carries her "Pumpkin Eater" down Main Street to find a perfect viewing spot as the official count begins on Saturday evening for Pumpkin Fest in Laconia. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Families played a pumpkin bowling game at Bank of NH on Saturday afternoon.  (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

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Chinese C-note scammers foiled


LACONIA — Police arrested two people on forgery and resisting arrest charges after a fake $100 bill was presented to a vendor at the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival on Saturday.

Christopher Greene, 24, and Holly Solans, 23, ran away from a food stand at 5:42 p.m. after the cashier said the currency being presented was not real, police Chief Matt Canfield said Monday.

Detective Kendra Neri, who was patrolling the festival on a mountain bike, quickly caught up with Solans on the WOW Trail, Canfield said.

“It wasn't too hard,” Neri said. “I was riding and she was running.”

Police units then converged on Greene, who was arrested in a back yard off of Lyford Street.

Officers recovered several of the bills, which have writing on the front in Mandarin Chinese.

Canfield said further investigation revealed the writing said, “For practice use only, Circulation Forbidden.”

The bills resemble U.S. currency, but the paper feels different.

Canfield said they are apparently used for training people in China who work with foreign currency and that there have been reports the fake money can be purchased online.

There have been published reports about the bills turning up elsewhere, including Oregon and Hawaii.

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Counterfeit $100 bills were displayed at the Laconia Police Department Monday. Police said someone tried to pass one of the bills at the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival on Saturday. (Rick Green/Laconia Daily Sun)

Christopher Greene

Christopher Greene

Holly Solans

Holly Solanz

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Lawsuit over WOW Trail withdrawn


LACONIA — The gated communities of South Down and Long Bay have dropped their legal challenge to the proposed extension of the WOW Trail, at least for the time being.

The Department of Transportation, which owns the land where the path would be extended and was the defendant, had contended the lawsuit was premature and should be dismissed.

Backers of extending the Winnisquam-Opechee-Winnipesaukee Trail through a railroad corridor from Lakeport to the Weirs have not yet filed project plans with the city or state.

Robert Carey, the plaintiffs' attorney, said in a legal filing that Gretchen Gandini, executive director of the WOW Trail organization, testified in a deposition that her group has no timeframe for the trail extension, hasn't raised money for it and does not have cost estimates.

Superior Court Judge James D. O'Neill III granted Carey's request to withdraw the case. The lawsuit can be refiled later.

Gandini said this is what she had been expecting.

"Strange as this may sound," she said, "I sort of feel the need to say thank you to South Down Shores and Long Bay leadership. This lawsuit has reminded us just how many people enjoy the WOW Trail, believe in our mission, and are devoted to helping us continue the trail to Weirs Beach and Meredith.  Let there be no doubt, we remain as committed as ever to helping transform this publicly-owned land into a spectacular year-round public recreation space for ALL State of New Hampshire residents and visitors to enjoy. I’m certain that a completed regional trail linking neighboring communities together and showcasing our three beautiful lakes will fast become one of the Lakes Region’s best amenities, drawing vacationing families back year after year and enhancing the quality of life for those of us fortunate enough to call the Lakes Region home.

Bruce D. Miller, president of the South Down Shores Recreation Association, and Dick Bordwell, president of the Long Bay Association, said in a letter to homeowners that the lawsuit was filed in May because trail backers said publicly they would be filing formal plans “within a couple weeks.”

Miller and Bordwell said in the letter that their legal counsel recommended the litigation be withdrawn “as it is highly likely that the court will view the action as premature and refuse to hear the case.”

“We have accepted the recommendation and the court has been notified that we are withdrawing this action; but we are preserving all rights to resubmit at a future date,” they said in the letter. “We have not diminished our legal position or resolve to prevent the WOW Trail from coming through our communities. We will take legal action when the WOW organization moves forward.”

Some homeowners in South Down Shores and Long Bay contend the trail would impede their access to the bay, harm views and disrupt privacy.

Proponents say the path would be good for neighbors, the broader community and businesses, while providing much-needed public access to a beautiful area. They say plans for the trail predated the private, gated communities.

Two earlier phases of the 10-foot-wide path now take it from the Belmont town line to Elm Street in the Lakeport area of Laconia.

Ultimately, trail backers hope to extend it not only to The Weirs, but all the way to Meredith.

The rail line is used by a sightseeing train during the tourist season. A fence would separate the tracks from the trail, and is another point of contention for homeowners.

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