Every year the New Hampshire town of Keene hosts Pumpkin Festival, which is a New England tradition that gathers spectators from all over. The festival consists of turning the picturesque downtown of Keene, NH into a giant showcase of carved pumpkin from all over the state and from visitors. The festival starts at 10 AM and includes activities for every age group. This year (2009) the festival will be held on Saturday October 17th, 2009.
Parking and breakfast
As an active participant in Pumpkin Fest every year I recommend going to the town of Keene, NH well before the opening time of 10 AM. Parking is very limited and later in the day you will be gauged $10-$30 to park your vehicle. The town has designated parking and shuttles; however I recommend finding an alternative parking spot early in the morning to save money. Even during the early hours the festival is packed with thousands of visitors, so be prepared to fight your way through a thick crowd. If you are lucky to get to Keene early enough I would recommend trying The Stage for breakfast, which is located near the Bank of America in the heart of downtown.
Afternoon activities for all ages including teens and children
During the afternoon hours there are many vendors and activities for every age. Recently there has been a rock climbing wall for $2, live music, and lots of local food vendors (all of which have great New England fall comfort foods), parade, and much more. The older kids enjoy exploring downtown and the vendors; there is always something for everyone. The parade is a favorite among younger children, it is fun and lively. As a visitor I strongly recommend bringing your own carved pumpkin for display or purchasing one at the festival to carve. Every year there are tens of thousands of pumpkins and it is always fun to try to find yours in the crowd and to see the other talented carvers.
Late night festival activities that should not be missed
The festival lasts until 9PM and it is worth it to stick around until the later hours, often time’s people will come for the day and leave by the evening; however you will be missing the best part. Once it starts getting dark the town does the lighting ceremony where the entire pumpkin filled town comes alive. Enjoy a hot apple cider or hot chocolate for a real fall like experience in New England. Once the pumpkins light up you will be amazed at how much effort and preparation went into this festival. There are tens of thousands of pumpkins lit up at a single time which makes for a memorable event, and great photo op.
Pumpkin Festival is a tradition that is almost two decades old in the town of Keene, NH and is one of the biggest celebrations in all of New England. This is one event not to skip this year, it is inexpensive and a lot of fun for every age. Remember to arrive early for good parking and to stay late for the lighting ceremony. For additional information you can visit the official Pumpkin Festival website at www.pumpkinfestival.org.
Personal experience as a regular attendee