Just how far would one person go to see pumpkins on Central Square?
If the person is Nancy Sporborg, who founded Keene Pumpkin Festival in 1991, there really is no limit to how far she would go.
She wrote a book, a 215-page, coffee-table-worthy, high quality book. She self-published it, risking $23,000. During the process, she realized she didn’t want profit from the project. Instead, any proceeds would be offered to underwrite pumpkin festivals.
“I didn’t want my grandchildren growing up without knowing about Keene Pumpkin Festival.” [After Keene voted against it in 2015] the only way for my grandkids to know about the festival, to see it, feel it and experience it, was if I wrote a book. I wanted them to know all about it.”
Sporborg had tried to start a book in 2014 but the project stalled until she realized she should write it as a gift for her family. “After that, it just flowed, it was easy, and the book wrote itself. My heart was in it. All I could think about was [the grandchildren] Sadie and Reese,” recalls Sporborg, getting teary.
A pivotal moment revolved around photographs. So many stunning pictures of the spectacular pumpkin festival had been taken over the years and Nancy knew pictures would tell the story. “But I was really nervous about pictures,” she admits, “because I didn’t have any budget.”
Her first step was reaching out to longtime Keene business person and photographer Al Braden, who had relocated to Texas. Nancy called Al and asked him how much he would charge for his pictures. He said, “Nancy, I wouldn’t have the pictures if it weren’t for you. So go ahead and use them!”
Nancy emotionally recalls, “He was so nice. That’s what the pumpkin festival was about. That! That’s what it was always supposed to be. And he got it.” Regrouping, Nancy continues, “That gave me the courage to approach other photographers and everybody was so giving.”
Sporborg collected 269 full-color photographs that bring her story to life. Only two of the contributors charged her, and every photographer got a signed, free book at a launch party in September.
Meanwhile, Let it Shine, the organization that ran the festival from 2011 to 2015 and led the community to its 9th world record, was entering a hiatus phase. Not needed in Laconia where the NH Pumpkin Festival took root and flourished in 2015 and subsequent years, Let it Shine voted in early 2016 to keep the pumpkin festival spark flickering by helping Nancy promote her book.
A sub-committee of Let it Shine, which included Nancy, Tim Zinn and Ruth Sterling, drafted a launch plan for Nancy’s book and executed that plan throughout 2016. Publicity, news releases, social media and other online promotions, personal appearances, interviews and other marketing tools were planned as well as offering the book at events, including pumpkin festivals. The team sold the book at the NH fest in Laconia and the Monadnock event at Cheshire Fairgrounds, as well as the City’s Fall Festival and and Stonewall Farm’s autumn fair. The book was sold and still is selling online at PumpkinFestival.org and Sporborg’s other passionate pursuit, Its-Not-about-the-
Downtown Keene establishments backed the pumpkin festival book by selling the book for Sporborg, agreeing that all profits would go to funding pumpkin festivals. Shops charged an insignificant fee for credit card purchases but no markup.Toadstool Bookshop, Kristin’s Bistro and Bakery (who also hosted the book launch party gratis), Creative Encounters, Ted’s Shoe & Sport, In the Company of Flowers, Mon Amie Fine Jewelry and Hannah Grimes all sold the book throughout 2016.
Enter another individual, willing to go to any length to put pumpkins on Central Square and smiles on children’s faces. By joining Let it Shine’s marketing sub-commitee, Tim Zinn had a chance to work shoulder-to-shoulder with Nancy and Ruth, and learn a great deal of festival lore. He had joined Let it Shine at its darkest moment in early 2015 and was determined to help the board heal from the traumatic events of the past. Calling himself the “fest pest,” Tim kept offering encouragement and consoling board members through the dark days.
And then one cold February day at a board get-together at Ramunto’s in Downtown Keene, Tim floated the idea of a small, school-powered festival.
Sporborg offered the book proceeds-to-date for funding. She had over $4,000 and $34 from any book sold thereafter to invest. That amount would buy enough pumpkins for the Keene Elementary Schools!
Fast forward a few months and Let it Shine has earned the city staff protocol team’s blessing to hold the festival. The City Council PLD committee will vote on Wednesday. The City Council will vote on August 3.
Nancy’s book funding provided a major head start and continues to be a great way to support the festival. Every book sold is a $34 investment in this year’s festival. But Nancy’s hoping the community will rekindle its generosity toward the festival with major funders pitching in again and raising the estimated $37,000 Let it Shine will be needing.
Toadstool, Hannah Grimes and Kristin’s are still offering the book currently and all but one dollar of the selling price goes directly to help this year’s Keene Pumpkin Festival on Central Square, Sunday, October 29, 2017.
Praise for “Pumpkin Festival—25 years”
“Pumpkin Festival gives a colorful inside look at the much-loved event, from its founding to its sad demise, in an upbeat, visual way that will delight anyone who ever attended.” – Barbara Rogers