It was a tough weekend in our town and many of us are very upset and hopped up as they say. We host the annual Pumpkinfest on Main St. Many people put in long hours to make this work and there have been several world records for the number of lit pumpkins including last year with a count of 30581. It’s a point of pride. Two years ago we had HGTV in town and the world got to see what a fabulous community event it is.
Every year the school kids carve pumpkins at school as well as home, local businesses donate pumpkins as well as carve their own, and families wheel their pumpkins downtown and find good spots for them. Friday there were good spirits as we set up our creations. I found a good spot for ours.
They set up the student pumpkins in Central Square. Of all the places that you don’t mess with, that is the spot. Problem is there has been a growing problem with the college kids in town. Please understand when I talk about the college students I do not mean all of them, in fact, some were hunkered down in their rooms too scared to leave. But there is a growing faction of those that think it’s fun to cause trouble. It started Friday night with drunks smashing pumpkins.
We like to take the dogs down the morning of when the streets are blocked off and it’s quiet. We noticed a few pumpkins here and there smashed. Even the top of my husband’s pumpkin was missing. One woman was very upset because she saw that her 5 year old grandson’s pumpkin was destroyed in Central Square. It didn’t bode well.
The best that I can see the perfect storm happened this way. First, the college is spineless in holding the students accountable for their actions. I’m not surprised at how bad it got. They set up a town-gown committee after incidences last year and all that is happened is the decision to take another year to work on this before deciding what to do.
Second, there is a company in Boston that searches out colleges to bring people in to rave. It’s called FinnaRage that sets up concerts and parties at colleges. There are videos showing things getting out of control at previous events but the CEO insists that is not what they are about. For me the proof is in the pudding.
Third, our town councillors knew they were coming but didn’t prevent it. They were pretty toothless to be honest.
By 3pm the police had to be in riot gear and had the tear gas out as the students and their out of town guests were drunk and throwing cans and bottles at people. By the end of the night there was a helicopter, swat teams, and responders from 3 states up against the mob raging, smashing pumpkins, destroying cars including flipping one over.
Here are a few things I want to clear up because social media, the national news, and yes the international news have the facts wrong.
First of all Keene State College does not host the PumpkinFest. The town of Keene does and many hours of hard work are put into making it safe. And it was safe, there wasn’t any rioting during PumpkinFest. In fact I was downtown at 3pm and none of us knew what was happening a few blocks away. The police and fire departments kept them away from the families and visitors. The kids got to check out the pumpkins in their costumes and have their fill of cotten candy and fried dough.
Second, Keene State has a lot to answer for. Their first response was that it was out of towners. Yes there were a lot of out of towners but they were invited by the students. The college is trying to say it wasn’t on campus. The streets that this happened on included the campus. It’s time this stops, it gets worse each year. Not only is it unfair to the residents of our town but unfair to the students that are actually there to learn.
Third, no it is not cool to flip cars and rage. However, it is cool the idiots keep posting with their names fessing up to what they did. Will make it easy to catch them and hopefully get them charged? I hope so. I mean really, how did these people get into college?
It upsets me that these hooligans highjacked the #pumpkinfest to use on the social media as it sullies all the good that happens.
While we didn’t get a new world record this year I would call the festival a success. There were fabulous and creative pumpkins, adorable costumes on the kids and some scary ones on adults, and loads of volunteers who love our community. That’s what I want #pumpkinfest to be full of.