Keene Pumpkin Festival hinges on participation and coordination with many different stakeholders and the challenges of COVID are making things more challenging than usual this year. As organizers, we had put forward a much smaller scaled plan that we felt could keep the community safe and still provide a bright spot looking forward to October. We had hoped, as always, to celebrate our beautiful downtown, businesses along Main Street, and put smiles on kids’ faces once again.
We would still love to see this happen. But due to many factors, we are now asking the community for a “self-managed” festival this year. We are encouraging downtown and area businesses along with schools and citizens to carve and display jack o lanterns in front of your homes and businesses. We invite you to post pictures of your jack-o’-lanterns on the official Facebook page: facebook.com/keenepumpkinfestival
Since just after the 2010 Keene Pumpkin Festival, the event has been overseen by a nonprofit named Let it Shine. The Let It Shine Board is at a crossroads and feels the time is right to bow out and hand the reigns over to the next generation of pumpkin faithful. Although three members of our Board own property in Keene, most are spending time in other locales. Let It Shine is a legal 501 c3 nonprofit and our Board is willing to work with the next team to make a transition toward a new future. A team with a well-rounded skill set—business, logistical, marketing, technical, and communications support—could run the festival in its current scope. The pieces of the festival are manageable and could be divided in creative ways. Elements could be renewed gradually, for example, the pumpkin tower at the head of the square.
We have set a deadline of November 30, 2020, to hand the ownership of the future festival over to a new team. We are willing to work through a training and transition period.
Let It Shine has been blessed to have Ruth Sterling still active and committed during the last three years of rekindling from the challenges of 2014. We truly couldn’t have done it without her help and guidance behind the scenes handling non-profit management, finances, our website and social media year-round, as well as co-managing the event. Ruth’s message can be found at Sterling Design & Communications website, https://www.ruthsterling.com/pumpkin-peace/.
As the other co-event manager and production manager, I have worked with schools and the city of Keene and hauled a-frames and jack-o’-lanterns, along with some pretty special volunteers. It has been an honor. We thank the countless volunteers, participants, and heroes that are the heartbeat of the festival. It is your selfless volunteerism and spirit that has made the festival so special and you are an inspiration to all of us.
The Keene Pumpkin Festival has been no stranger to challenges and achievements. Since 1991, The Keene Pumpkin Festival has generated pride and community spirit, as well as promoted Keene’s downtown, and provided a means to share individual expressions of art with the world. The future of the festival is only limited by the vision of a new team. We beat the odds in 2017 and showed that nothing is impossible with hard work, persistence and communication. Help keep that message alive for our children and community. Please consider volunteering to keep this tradition in downtown Keene where it has provided so many smiles, memories, and benefits to the community. Go to https://www.pumpkinfestival.org/ to offer your contact information and level of interest.
Tim Zinn, Board Chair, on behalf of The Let It Shine Board (Jack Weststrate, Nancy Hickox, Shaundi Rider and Ruth Sterling)
PS A conversation starter about future event management is at https://www.ruthsterling.com/whats-next-for-keene-pumpkin-festival/