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Pumpkin Festival Turns Chaotic

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at BC chapter.

After reading many articles online, watching news coverage on local channels, and seeing coverage at the national level from frequently visited websites like MTV News, I still can’t help but wonder how a family-friendly pumpkin festival honoring the harvest and spirit of fall turned into an all-night drunken riot. For those of you who have not heard of this incident, over the weekend in Keene, NH the annual Pumpkin Festival was held for the 24th year. The idea behind the festival is to celebrate the spirit of Halloween and to capture the most Jack-O’-Lanterns in one place at a time. The hope is to beat the record of the year before, which in this case meant over 30,000 pumpkins in one city. 

This annual festival draws families from the surrounding areas providing kid-friendly activities like a costume parade, craft tables, and even pumpkin bowling. At the center of it all is an iconic pumpkin tower, which holds an unbelievable amount of lit Jack-O’-Lanterns all in one spectacular structure, but that’s not all. Below the tower, thousands of carved pumpkins line the streets lit beautifully on display for all to see. Keene, NH is a quintessential New England town, with a gorgeous downtown area that is perfect for hosting the event. The event has gone on for many years without incident, that is, until this year.

New Englanders of all ages enjoyed the day’s activities, but when the sun went down the happy, light-hearted atmosphere of the celebration disappeared and out emerged a chaotic and, quite frankly, scary scene. Riots broke out across the town. Cars were turned upside down and large fires were lit in the streets. This resulted in police fighting back the riot crowds with rubber bullets and pepper spray. So, once again, I turn to the question: how does a pumpkin festival turn into such a violent and disturbing scene?

Well, we have to start from the beginning. To truly understand the circumstances of this incident we must consider all the people involved, not just the public view of it only being a family-friendly event. To the students of Keene State, the local college that has about 5,000 students in the surrounding area, “PumpkinFest” is very similar to Marathon Monday for BC students. Essentially, this is a huge day drinking event that college students from all over New England attend to participate in the drunken festivities. Just as every other BC student would say Marathon Monday is one of the best days of the year, Keene State students would say that PumpkinFest is the most fun day of their year, which is absolutely acceptable. But does that warrant students getting intoxicated to the point of damaging and endangering the surrounding community? Absolutely not.

Just a few years ago, we BC students experienced a very sobering event on Marathon Monday. When the bombs went off in downtown Boston, each and every student at BC recognized that even though we are in college and we do live in a bubble where we believe it is appropriate and acceptable to be very drunk in public, life is much greater than what we college students perceive. So, my hopes for the repercussions in Keene, NH are that students will recognize how sobering this incident is, both literally and figuratively. The former being that students will take into account how much alcohol they are drinking next time around, especially when there are children and families present, and the latter, that an incident like this needs to be discussed. Just because we are college students and thoroughly enjoy drinking doesn’t mean that we can let it turn dangerous and destructive like it did this past weekend. 

I think it’s important for the public to take the college students’ perspective into account when discussing this event, because as college students, our voices deserve to be heard too. 








Shannon is currently in her junior year at BC.  She is majoring in Elementary Education and English, hoping to one day teach in an urban school.  Originally from Hopkinton, MA, one of Shannon's favorite things to do is tell people that her hometown is the start of the Boston Marathon - it's claim to fame!  In her free time, you can find Shannon cuddled up somewhere with her adorable giraffe-spotted mug.
Niloufar is a senior at Boston College, majoring in French and English.