Pumpkin festival is becoming Lakes Region's own

PumpkinPrep 21Oct16295300 DS

Pumpkins gathered at Veteran’s Square ready to be loaded onto the Tower for Saturday’s Pumpkin Fest.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

LACONIA — When Richard and Lisa Carey of Vestal, New York, had young children, they wanted to have a little more fun with their pumpkin carving than the usual.

"Our children inspired us when they were little," said Lisa. "We realized you can do a lot more than a traditional triangular face." They started experimenting with pumpkin carving about 25 years ago, trying to create a likeness of their favorite cartoon characters. Within a few years, they were carving a dozen or more at their house, and each year had a theme, such as Winnie the Pooh, Disney characters, or the cast from The Rugrats. Soon, so many people were stopping by their house each fall that they partnered with their municipality to host the pumpkin display in a local park. At their peak, the Careys, with the help of a few other volunteers, were carving about 300 pumpkins each year, and people would come by the thousands to see them.

But it just grew too big for one family to handle. There was the cost of buying the pumpkins, plus all the time involved in washing, gutting, carving, washing again, and then drying each pumpkin so it won't mold, for 300 jack-o'-lanterns.

"It got out of control, where we couldn't manage it anymore," said Richard, so they stopped holding the public events. Yet, Richard, a self-employed auto mechanic, and Lisa, a nurse, couldn't shake the pumpkin-carving bug. And, after 25 years, they had gotten really good at it. So they loaded up their pickup truck with two huge pumpkins – and a couple of dozen normal-sized squashes – and pointed the truck toward Laconia.

This is the kind of story that Karmen Gifford, president of the Greater Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, has been hearing for months now. This is the second year that the Pumpkin Festival has been held in Laconia, and is the first year that the Chamber is organizing the event. She has spent the last year planning the event, with guidance from the nonprofit Let It Shine, which ran the festival for many years in Keene and for its first year in Laconia. What Gifford has found this year is that the festival has been adopted by so many different people and groups, who have each decided to have their own role to play. That role can be as small as an individual who will bring his or her own carved pumpkin to be added to the others on display – if the total exceeds 30,581, it will set a Guinness World Record – or as big as many other critical roles, which have all been adopted by businesses or individuals, from both near and far.

"We had a lot of pieces hanging out there, they all came together last week," a smiling Gifford said on Wednesday. "But we couldn't have done it without the community."

After long being an event associated with Keene, Laconia was excited to host the one-day festival last year. Still, there were questions about whether the event would resonate with people outside of the city lines. And it did, as about 35,000 people came to see the the festival's first run in Laconia. That kind of turnout only further excited the local hosts.

"I think, last year, nobody knew what to expect. This year, we're making it our own," said Gifford.

The list of people who have stepped forward to play a role in the festival is too long to count. Laconia schools have committed to have each student carve a pumpkin, and businesses and individuals have offered to supply enough pumpkins for the students. Volunteers are staffing the welcome centers, the Bank of New Hampshire has invited nonprofit organizations to run children's games in its parking lot, electrician Jim Hutchins has designed a plan to light all of the pumpkins placed in the 34-foot-tall tower, and the city's Department of Public Works has done yeoman's work to get the festival up and running. There's still time for volunteers to join the effort, too, she said, inviting people to enlist at one of the welcome centers, to help light or count pumpkins, or to lend a hand in the "Pumpkin Dump Derby" cleanup effort that begins at 8:45 p.m.

Many businesses have signed up to have a presence during the festival. There will be many vendors downtown, offering food and crafts. The Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad, which was very popular last year, will offer 45-minute excursions that will leave from the downtown train station every hour, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Two local restaurants, T-Bones and 405 Pub & Grill, each asked to operate a Biergarten.

Those who come to the Pumpkin Festival this year will find more vendors, more food and more activities, said Gifford, and it's all thanks to the many different people who have joined the effort. For the Careys, it is encouraging to see so many people come together for the festival. That's why they decided to offer one of their giant, carved pumpkins to be raffled off at the festival. Each ticket costs $1, and every dollar raised will be donated to the festival.

"If we can help, we want to help," said Lisa.

PumpkinPrep 20Oct16295236 DS

A Pumpkin Patch window mural painted by Jayla Austin at the Boys and Girls Club in preparation for Saturday’s Pumpkin Fest.  (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)



10-19 bolduc BENCH

A granite bench has been installed at Bolduc Park on the Laconia-Gilford town line in memory of Ken and Barbara Bolduc. Donors included Armand and Arlene Hamel, seated, former Laconia residents now living in Merrimac, Massachusetts. Standing are Norman and Anita McKeown of Belmont; Allan Hopkins, Bolduc Park worker; and Marilyn and Bob Bolduc of Belmont. Ken Bolduc was the oldest of 14 children in the Charles and Aurore Bolduc family of Gilford and served as a combat engineer during World War II, working to help build the Alaskan highway. He was an avid hunter and fisherman and the bench is located with a view of a pond at Bolduc Park, which hosts golfers during the summer and cross-country skiers during the winter and was founded by Bob Bolduc. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Witnesses back alleged victim’s testimony in third day of Belmont rape trial


LACONIA — A former employee of a Belmont businessman accused of four counts of raping a child back in the late 1990s testified yesterday that he saw the alleged victim on top of the accused, which corroborates her earlier testimony. 

Despite witness "JJ's" admitted drinking problem during the late 1990 and his on-again off-again employment with Steven Price, he was adamant that he walked by Price's living room and saw the alleged victim on top of Price.

"I've been known to drink a few beers back them, but I still know what I saw," he testified.

The alleged rape victim was caught stealing $30,000 in jewelry from Price in 2014. On the day she was scheduled to plead guilty, which was Oct. 2, 2014, she told her attorney about the alleged assaults, which triggered charges against Price. The charge of theft was dropped and the alleged victim was given immunity from prosecution from anything she would say in Price's trial.

"I saw them on the couch, playing or wrestling," J.J. said, corroborating a statement made the victim earlier in the trial that J.J. saw them for about three seconds in a compromising position. He said they were fully clothed but that she was on top of him and if they didn't have their clothes on, he believes he would have witnessed sexual intercourse.

About a month later, he said he and Price had an argument after which J.J. says he quit and others say he was fired, and he went to a body shop on Route 140 owned by Leon Cram and told him what he saw. He said Cram "hated" Price and wanted to make trouble for him so he called the police. Cram later denied that.

J.J. didn't remember talking to Officer Sean Sullivan, but Cram remembered talking to him. He said  J.J. was not drunk when he first came to the shop, but was drinking beer during their conversation. Retired Belmont Detective Steven Crockett testified that Sullivan responded immediately, but turned the case over to him after noting in his report that J.J. appeared intoxicated so he didn't interview him.

Crockett said he called J.J., who spoke with him on the phone but didn't show up for his formal statement the next day. He said he found J.J., interviewed him and then went to talk to the alleged victim, who denied they had any kind of sexual relationship.

Crockett said later that night, Price, whom he barely knew, called him at his home and demanded to know who the witness was, which was consistent with the alleged victim saying she called Price immediately after talking with police. Crockett closed the case.

Under cross-examination by Price's attorney, J.J. reiterated what he saw that day, but contradicted a number of other statements the alleged victim made during her testimony that were mostly about her role as babysitter.

J.J. said the alleged victim was at the shop all of the time and that Price would often pick her up from school. He described the relationship between all of them as "like a family" but that there was a lot of touching and grabbing between the two.

The jury also heard testimony from a high school friend of the alleged victim who said she saw the relationship between Price and her friend develop during their high school years.

S.M. said she saw the two often at the alleged victim's parents' house, which was when they were 14 and 15, and occasionally went to the shop. She said that they acted "like boyfriend and girlfriend" when it was just the three of them, and the two were often seen hugging and holding hands.

S.M. said that the two stayed in casual contact after the alleged victim left the area, but when she returned to New Hampshire, the alleged victim lived with her. She said they fell out because of the alleged victim's "untruthfulness" about a matter involving S.M.'s boyfriend.

During the alleged victim's testimony, she said she and S.M. once "made out" in front of Price but under cross- examination, S.M. gave an emphatic "No" when asked about it.

The trial continues Monday with continued cross-examination of S.M.