Now that we’re nearly a week into the month of October, the Hannah Grimes Marketplace has gotten into the Halloween spirit, displaying painted pumpkins amongst the other local goods alluringly offered along its storefront sidewalk.
What always amazes me about the proliferation of painted pumpkins that typically appears around Keene this time of year is the fact that they aren’t jack-o-lanterns. Keene, of course, holds the official World Record for the number of lit jack-o-lanterns gathered in one place at a single time: 28,952 carved and illuminated pumpkins, a record set at the 2003 Pumpkin Festival. Each year, Keene tries to break her own record, failing to do so last year but still leaving every other pumpkin-proud town in the dust. This year, the Pumpkin Festival goal is 30,000 lit jack-o-lanterns: an impressive target when you consider that the population of Keene herself is only about 20,000 folks.
Therein lies my own personal Pumpkin Conundrum. If you wanted to devote all your energy, resources, and concentration to breaking the record for lit jack-o-lanterns, why distract yourself with painted pumpkins that ultimately Don’t Count in the larger scheme of things? The answer, apparently, is there’s always room for Pumpkins, More Pumpkins in Keene, NH. Carved, painted, or emblazoned on T-shirts, caps, and souvenir mugs, soon enough it’s going to be All Pumpkins, All the Time here in Keene. These painted pumpkins, it turns out, are merely the opening act.