At first glance, you probably see nothing curious about this photo of Kali’s Sports Pub on Main Street here in Keene, NH. What’s more all-American, after all, than an establishment where you can watch a televised game over a beer or two? It’s been over a year since Kali’s inspired controversy after some local parents voiced their concerns that a bar would be serving drinks and offering al fresco munchies within sight of Main Street’s most popular ice cream stand. Over a year later, though, that initial hoopla seems to have been much ado over nothing. Kali’s hospitality hasn’t brought bands of inebriated sports-hooligans into downtown Keene, and I haven’t heard anyone crying over spilled milkshakes since beer moved in two doors down from ice cream.
No, there’s nothing about Kali’s itself that makes this picture curious; instead, you have to understand what the rest of downtown looks like these days. Whereas merchants from coast to coast, I’m told, are hunkering down in wide-eyed expectation for another Christmas shopping season, here in downtown Keene, it’s still October. Yep, you heard me right: here in Keene, local merchants aren’t yet pushing sleighs and reindeer, although I’m sure they wouldn’t mind if hordes of leaf-peepers wanted to start their Christmas shopping early here in tax-free New Hampshire.
One of the benefits of living in the pumpkin capital of the world is the fact that Keene doesn’t hurry the arrival of Christmas the way other towns do. While merchants in other towns–and even marketers for the Big Box Stores on the outskirts of town–are already announcing the start of holiday shopping, downtown merchants here know where their pumpkin bread is buttered. Why hurry Santa’s arrival when you can sell All Things Pumpkin? These days in downtown Keene, you can buy pumpkin hats, pumpkin T-shirts, pumpkin-painted gourds, pumpkin ties, or painted pumpkins. Although Keene is perfectly charming in December, downtown merchants don’t feel the need to start humming “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” when the calendar says “October.” Instead, our local color follows a predictable and leisurely seasonal succession, with September bringing fall foliage, October bringing pumpkins, November bringing turkeys, and December bringing Santa. This isn’t to say you can’t enjoy a turkey in September or fall foliage in October…it just feels refreshingly sane to let Santa Claus arrive in good time and in the proper season, with Keene’s annual Christmas tree lighting happening at the beginning of December, right when it should.
Given the pumpkin-preoccupied tenor of downtown Keene these days, now you might notice what’s wrong with that picture of Kali’s doorway: what’s with Frosty? Although we here in southwest New Hampshire sometimes get our first snowfall in October–in theory at least, we could make snowmen and snow angels at the Pumpkin Festival later this month–it seems quite curious to see a snowman propping the door to a downtown sports pub. If nothing else, shouldn’t Frosty be holding a pumpkin in one hand rather than a red Christmas tree ornament? To my eye, it seems clear that Frosty the Seasonally Inappropriate Snowman isn’t from around these parts. If he were, he’d at least wear a pumpkin T-shirt, hat, or tie with his spiffy scarf.