Searching for coffee and free Wifi as we headed southwest through New Hampshire, we saw a dot on the map that looked large enough to supply both. Plus, a bit of medium-small town charm. We like charm.
Keene, NH turned out to have all three – coffee, Wifi and charming people.
As we parked our rig and made our way to Brewbaker’s coffee house on Main Street, we noticed that something was going on in this town. Folks were setting up tents and tables and long, long rows of boards on scaffolding and milk crates. We wondered, but the lure of caffeine and blogging took us into the coffeeshop.
Two hours and two blog posts later we stepped back out on Main Street. So much orange! Pumpkins and jack o’ lanterns were everywhere! On trucks, in boxes, on pallets and beginning to fill shelves. The official flashing sign pointed to the pumpkin drop-off. Numerous teams were registering the finished jack o’lanterns ready for lighting. Families brought one or two at a time. Trucks with trailers brought 700 at a time from larger donors in some cases.
We had stumbled upon the prep for Keene’s Pumpkinfest 2012! Rain was pouring and under a tent we met Misty, who told us what was going on.
Her enthusiasm was infectious and soon we found ourselves helping the smiling, but soaking, volunteers. Directed by Trey and Sandy of the Swampbats baseball organization, we carried lumber,
unloaded jack o’ lanterns from schools and corporations. We even carved some pumpkins and several hours passed swiftly among our new, gracious friends.
I had to break out my own power tools just for fun to see if they added any efficiency to the age-old task of putting faces on the gourds. Yes, they do speed it up! Quite a bit.
Keene was preparing for battle. They were deep in a contest with Highwood, IL to display the most lit, carved jack o’ lanterns. Not only the town but the entire region was participating in the annual rivalry. A Guiness world record was the prize and local charities and non-profits were the beneficiaries: Discover Card was donating a dollar per pumpkin for Education to the winning team and $10,000 to the other city. HGTV will air the contest on “Pumpkin Wars” to be shown on Halloween night.
It was a huge, well-organised effort and we were in the middle of it! We decided to stay the night to see the spectacular display on Saturday.
We met so many friendly folks.
Saw so many families working together and a whole community pitching in. People were incredulous that 2 traveling Baltimoreans would stop and get involved so readily. They were so very appreciative and kind. They declared that we could be “honorary citizens” of their lovely town.
We, however, were grateful that this opportunity came up. So many nice people to meet and chat with!
So many glimpses of warmth and happiness. There’s something magical and glorious about rubbing elbows with people who are striving to accomplish something. Even if the goals of said folks are sort of remote from us, we relish the sense of community.
Hard work, especially with a team, is good. Besides, we don’t have jobs right now so a little work mixed into the play is very good!
It turned out to be quite moving to watch an entire community celebrating together. The parade passed the ‘Kleenex test’ (Hallmark Cards and the Stagges would know what I mean) . The costumed and pumpkin-headed American Legion Band,
the bright day after so much rain, and thousands of families walking and reveling in the temporary harvest extravaganza. We just stood and stared, couldn’t have walked very fast anyway. Well, at least until it began to get dark and we joined others frantically lighting pumpkins! The streets were packed already, with still more pouring in.
As the contest ended, we slipped out of town before the mobs began to leave. We didn’t know if Keene succeeded in lighting more jack o’lanterns than anyone else, but the Tramper was calling. Time to find a secure campsite for the night…
– Jane and David