What is the Keene Pumpkin Fesitival?

When A Small New England Town Meets A Big Conflict

The city of Keene, New Hampshire is home to two communities; students attending Keene State College and those who call Keene their home year round. Keene State College was founded in 1909 and has been renowned as a teachers college across the nation. When you ask anyone in New England what is the first thing that comes to mind when they think of Keene, they will say the Pumpkin Festival. Originating in 1991, the Keene Pumpkin Festival was only a mere thousand or so participants from families in the city, local small market venders who got together celebrating the fall festivities with carved Pumpkins. The Pumpkin festival of Keene was home to the world record of most lit Jack- o lanterns in 2013 with 30,581. From it’s inception of the festival the size, popularity, and influence of  both the communities has lead the pumpkin Festival to be featured as a must see attraction in brochures and New England’s sight seeing websites as well. As the years progressed so did the notoriety and the culminating factors that where a pot of boiling water ready to boil over, which led to the infamous riots that occurred in 2014.

The 2014 Pumpkin Festival erupted into violence. College aged people from around New England rebelled against police authority resulting in flipped cars, torn down road signs. Many were injured and arrested. But the effects of the chaos weren’t all bad and have led the community and college to work toward mending their relationship and resolving the tension that has built us over the decades.

Here we are studying the conflict and resolution of our college town using archival research and interviews for our COPLAC Digital course. This course is part of the Council of Public Liberal Arts Council and was made possible by a grant from the Carnegie foundation to create a digital classroom with students and professors from around the country with a variety of majors from biology to history. The experience has helped us learn how to create a successful self-driven research project that has stemmed from our own curiosity about our community and learning about the roots of the conflicts we experience in our daily lives.

COPLAC Digital main site: http://coplacdigital.org/



The Jack-o Lantern Tower set up in downtown Keene.


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