LACONIA — Since the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival relocated to Laconia, the city has made the celebration its own, said Karmen Gifford, who organizes the event. This year’s Pumpkin Fest will take place Oct. 18 and 19, and she said there’s a few things local people can do over the next week to put their own signature on the festival.
While the Pumpkin Fest was in Keene, where it started and grew into a regional attraction, the emphasis was always on breaking the previous year’s record for most lit jack-o-lanterns. Laconia’s total never threatened Keene’s high mark of 30,581. Instead of shooting for an ever-growing world record, said Gifford, president of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, she’s decided to focus on the quality rather than quantity.
“We haven’t counted for the last festival or two,” she said, although she does want to have many thousands of jack-o-lanterns on display. “It is a pumpkin festival, and it is about creativity. The renewed interest is the creativity… This is year five for us, we’re re-defining what the New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival is for us.”
One defining aspect of the Pumpkin Fest has been the tower, a 34-foot wall of pumpkins that will be found at Veterans Square this year, closer to Pleasant Street than it has been in years past.
“We want to have the tower full by Friday,” Gifford said. That means that she will need thousands of pumpkins to be ready well before the start of the festival. There are many ways to help with that goal, the simplest of which might be to bring a carved pumpkin to the tower during the day on Friday.
But there are other options. Moulton Farm, in Meredith, is partnering with the festival this year with a special offer. Anyone who buys a carving pumpkin on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday will get a free pumpkin that they can carve at the farm, then leave it for the farm to deliver to Laconia on Friday.
Also, any business or organization that would like to help out could send a contingent of carvers to the carving station in Veterans Square on Friday, so they can create their jack-o-lanterns there and not have to worry about the other logistics. “We’ll take care of the mess, we’ll take care of the pumpkins, we’re just trying to figure out ways to make it easier,” Gifford said.
The festival could use a few more helping hands as well, both to manage the carving station during the festival on Friday and Saturday, and for the “Pumpkin Dump Derby,” a furious effort that takes place on Saturday evening after the close of the festival at 8 p.m. Every group of six people or more that helps remove the pumpkins from downtown will enjoy free pizza, and will earn $200 for their school, team or organization.
“It’s a lot of fun and takes approximately one hour,” Gifford said.
Lastly, Gifford is hoping to add a new visual element to the festival through the use of totem-pole-type structures, simple steel poles that are mounted to a footing and can hold several pumpkins stacked four or five feet high. Gifford said she is hoping to find someone who can construct a few such structures, and can produce several more each year.
If any of those don’t fit the bill, Gifford said she is hoping to find a few more businesses that will serve as remote pumpkin drop-off locations, and she is soliciting for pumpkin carving kits to be dropped off at All My Life Jewelers on Main Street.
As many as 40,000 people will visit NH Pumpkin Fest, she said. “There’s so many people that carve a pumpkin for the first time, it blows my mind.”
To help with any of the above, call the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce at 603-524-5531.