DAY 36 – 10/20/2012 Keene, NH Pumpkinfest

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! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn 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.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFamilies 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.

We met Misty at the Swampbats table

We met Misty at the Swampbats table

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,

See? Jane worked too!

See? Jane worked too!

unloaded jack o’ lanterns from schools and corporations. We even carved some pumpkins and several hours passed swiftly among our new, gracious friends.

We met Misty at the Swampbats table

We met Misty at the Swampbats table

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.

David carves out the Alzheimer's patients' pumpkins. They expressed themselves with paint. But to be part of the contest, they had to be carved!

David carves out the Alzheimer’s patients’ pumpkins. They expressed themselves with paint. But to be part of the contest, they had to be carved!

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!

Here's Trey with David. (David is wearing his BSA hat, picked up at a second-hand shop in Maine)

Here’s Trey with David. (David is wearing his BSA hat, picked up at a second-hand shop in Maine)

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,

Members of the Keene American Legion Band

Members of the Keene 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. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe 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

20 responses to “DAY 36 – 10/20/2012 Keene, NH Pumpkinfest

  1. Wow…Good story, for sure. (But who travel tours with their power tools?! More importantly, WHY would anyone travel tour with their power tools?!

  2. as of now we don’t know if Highwood IL beat us or not- It wa so great to meet you guys!! so glad that the lure of free wifi and coffee brought you here!!! 🙂 — Thanks for all your hard work and your generous spirit!! 🙂

  3. Diane, I didn’t bring many tools, but after only an 8 mile trial tow with the “new” vehicle and an unknown number of miles ahead I had to create a tool box for travel. We’ve had some light non-pumpkin needs too! (Bike, car, and household tools are included) I put in a shoe organizer at Walmart of Bangor, ME. What’s next…

  4. Hmmmm. Is that pumpkin or do I smell retirement town?

    • Good question! and, something to think about as we travel through these small towns. It’s a benefit of traveling the smaller roads that we get to see the actual town and not just the rest stop!

  5. That was so moving! Thank you for sharing! I had to get the Kleenex out when I saw the lit up pumpkins! I envy you both so much for your blessed opportunities that come up along your journey…

    • We do feel blessed! And, very, very lucky! We’ll be traveling through Pennsylvania again. I’ll call you when we get close. If you’re home, maybe we could stop by and say hello…

  6. What a fun story. Sounds like classic David and Jane – pitching in to help out! I love the final picture with all the pumpkins lit up! I am sure you have seen plenty of fall foliage, but I thought of both of you as I sat on my front porch and enjoyed your tree. The leaves are a pretty red right now! We miss you!

    • That tree does get pretty in the fall. Speaking of foliage, I’m sitting under a big yellow-leaved maple tree right now and there’s a nice breeze. I’m in a leaf shower! Say ‘hi’ to the kids from both of us.

  7. I didn’t have to get a Kleenex, but there was a lump in my throat…great story.


    Really great story. I am stealing the idea of pumpkin carving with a jog saw! I love it!! Keene is a great place. Camped there as a kid. Love it.

  9. Thanks so much for stopping by our little town and helping us with our Pumpkin Fest! Enjoy the rest of your travels :o)

  10. The kids and I just saw an advertisement for the pumpkin wars on HGTV. They showed Keene, NH. Hope you are staying warm and safe there. In the heart of the storm here.

  11. Thanks Megan, we are warm and safe so far. we are in the heart of the Highway Supervisor and his wife. They said the local police know our predicament and will be swinging by once in awhile…they’ve even arranged to leave the rec center unlocked for the bathroom. Wow! YOU ALL STAY SAFE THERE TOO! say Hi! to Charlie and KatieRayJuliaJack too.

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