Keene Pumpkin Festival returning for a 15th year

KEENE — Another beloved fall festival is making its post-pandemic return after two years of in-person cancellations.

People and pumpkins will once again gather at the heart of Keene for the 15th annual Keene Pumpkin Festival, which takes place on Oct. 15 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Guests, required to pay $2 to enter, will access the all-day event at the main entrance on Third Street.

“We are very excited,” Cathy Wood, chair of the Board of the Keene Pumpkin Festival, told The Examiner.

The jam-packed day will kick off at 9 a.m. with the Keene Pumpkin Festival parade. Beginning at North Shore Public School, the parade will feature floats, horseback riders, kids of bikes, classic cars and, according to Wood, “whatever shows up.”

At noon, it’s go big or go home for competitive gardeners hoping to tip the scales in their favour during the Great Pumpkin Weigh Off (some gigantic gourds might make an appearance, too). The heaviest pumpkin-plotters will be awarded first, second and third place.

The weigh-off isn’t the only contest planned for the day. Students attending Keene’s North Shore Public School, from kindergarten and up, will bring their hand-decorated and autographed pumpkins to the festival, forming a “pumpkin pyramid” stacked on bleachers. Four prizes will be handed out to young pumpkin decorators.

The festival will also feature a straw bale maze, live music, axe throwing competition, a bouncy castle, petting zoo (there’s even an alpaca coming) — and Maple the Milking Cow. Maple is an artificial cow that allows attendees to simulate cow-milking.

Clever canines trained by the company Hot Diggity Dog will also be on site — leaping through hoops and through tunnels — for two shows at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The antique car show, which rolls on all day, is a big draw for the festival. Depending on the weather, Wood said up to 150 cars could pull up.

Throughout the day, festival-goers will be able to have their pick from a wide array of on-site food vendors.

For a festival first, Hiawatha First Nation’s Sandra Moore and Kristina Smith will be demonstrating the Indigenous art of quilling at the Keene Historical Society display.

After having to go virtual the last two years — organizers encouraged people to decorate their homes and make outdoor displays — Wood is thrilled to be back in person for the festival.

“It puts Keene on the map. We’re a small community and it does bring a lot of attention and people to us and our area to see what we have to offer.”

Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner