LACONIA — There will be lots to see and do in downtown tonight and Saturday, as the NH Pumpkin Festival gets underway, but no one will want to miss the huge tower of pumpkins. It stretches from sidewalk to sidewalk at the north end of Main Street, is just a few feet shorter than Fenway Park’s famed Green Monster, and it will be filled with pumpkins.
“It’s a 34-foot tower, it can hold up to 1,000 pumpkins,” said Karmen Gifford, president of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce.
And it will likely fill up. The chamber, which organizes the NH Pumpkin Festival taking place tonight and tomorrow, asks people to reserve placement on the tower.
“We’re seeing more preregistrations this year than we ever have,” she said. The pumpkins loaded onto the tower will be lighted using a bespoke system designed and installed by Hutchins Electric.
The pumpkins on the tower tend to be among the most creative. For example, a local eye care office is carving an eyeball into their pumpkin, and a beach bar is carving a cocktail glass into their Jack-O-Lantern. The first year that Laconia hosted the Pumpkin Festival, the tower was host to a carved marriage proposal.
“People get pretty creative, they’re not just spelling their names,” Gifford said. Often, the pumpkins reserved for the tower come from local organizations or businesses. “It’s employees getting together after work and carving. It’s great camaraderie, it’s community.”
The tower itself was originally designed many years ago, when the festival was still held in Keene, said “Dutch” Stauffenecker, sales rep for Vanguard Scaffolding, of New Ipswich, N.H., which brings in and sets up the tower.
“It’s made out of Universal scaffolding,” he explains. Made to rival the more typical scaffolding commonly seen at construction sites and painting projects, the scaffolding made by Universal Manufacturing, out of Pennsylvania, better lends itself to unusual designs, he said, and it has a robust weight limit.
In addition to being 34 feet tall, the tower measures 56 feet side-to-side, and 10 feet front-to-back.
“The scaffold system itself is 75 pounds per square foot. You couldn’t put enough pumpkins on that staging to make it fail,” Stauffenecker said. “Capacity is not at all a factor. Back in the day in Keene, they used to put a 500-pound pumpkin right on the very top.”
The Vanguard crew has put up and taken town the tower so many times, he said, that they will be able to build it again with ease. “We’ve got it down to a science.”
Most of Vanguard’s jobs are for standard construction applications. However, In his career, Stauffenecker has had some interesting requests. They’ve built platforms for television crews covering drag racing in Epping, and the Stanley Cup playoffs in Boston.
Stauffenecker said that it’s nice to see his work bring joy to crowds of people.
“It’s always fun to see lots of people standing in front of it, taking pictures, taking selfies. To us, it’s just another day at the office, but for other people, they stand in front of it in awe… To see people get enjoyment out of it is rewarding.”