As pumpkin plants around the northeast are just beginning to bloom, organizers Let it Shine, Inc., and Sterling Design & Communications, in collaboration with the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, are ready to announce the basic programming plans for Pumpkin Festival 2015 presented by ZIPPO. This is the 25th year for New Hampshire’s famous pumpkin carving and counting event, the first year it will take place in downtown Laconia. Following are the plans, subject to change, with a few surprises still in the works:
The Runaway Pumpkin 10k & 5k Run/Walk 9am
Location: Laconia Athletic & Swim Club, 827 North Main Street, Laconia
Before the festival, first thing in the morning, a choice of distances, welcoming walkers as well as serious runners to this scenic course which includes the WOW Trail (WOW is an acronym for the three lakes along the rail trail, Winnipesaukee, Winnisquam and Opechee). Previously this event was called WOW Fest and was held in September but has joined the festivities of Pumpkin Festival 2015.
Pronounced “Pumpkin Alley,” it’s Pump-Canal(y) Street for Kids
If renowned area artist Larry Frates achieves his vision, Laconia’s Canal Street will be orange from one end to the other with activities for kids and creative types of all ages. Shops on the street have their own special pumpkin plans, so do not miss this street in your explorations of Pumpkin Festival 2015.
Haunted Attractions for that Special Thrill
The Belknap Mill, the oldest, unaltered brick textile mill in the United States, has plenty of history to draw from for its planned haunted mill attraction. Stay tuned for details! And across town, the UCC/Congregational Church plans to send chills up many a visitor’s spine too.
Welcome Centers at Four Entrances to Downtown
Welcome to Pumpkin Festival 2015…. Log in your carved jack-o’-lantern to be part of the world record tally, make a donation to keep the festival shining… all at whichever entrance gate you choose. If you forgot your pumpkin, you can carve one at the carving stations and log it in. Visitors will feel warmly welcomed to Pumpkin Festival 2015 at any of the four+ Welcome Centers.
ZIPPO, Official Lighter of Pumpkin Festival
In addition to hosting the Welcome Center near the Railroad Station, ZIPPO will be offering their official candle lighters for sale at their booth and at the Pumpkin Shop/s where festival logo souvenir t-shirts and other experience extenders can also be purchased.
The Pump(kin) Dump Derby 8:30pm
A race to clean up Pumpkin Festival involving competing teams, lottery-assigned territories and a grand prize $1000 to the team’s charity of choice. All teams who complete their territory win $100 for the charity of their choice. Sponsored by Shipyard Brewing.
Pumpkin Festival Children’s Costume Parade, Lead Sponsor, Storyland. 12:30pm
Location: Loop through Downtown Laconia to be finalized. Children (of all ages!) decked out in Halloween costumes parade through streets lined with delighted spectators. After many years of organizers dreaming about it, Cinderella’s pumpkin coach from Storyland is expected to appear at Pumpkin Festival 2015, and lead the parade! Photo opportunities at the Train Station are also planned.
Pumpkin Bowling 2pm-6pm
Location TBD but expected to take place on the Pleasant Street side of downtown. Real bowling pins but instead of bowling balls, we’ll be bowling with pumpkins–the hard, “sugar” pumpkins. Try the new sport of pumpkin bowling in the middle of the street!
45-foot Photo Opportunity 10am-8:30pm
Visitors can view the festival from 45 feet in the air, via the Ferris Wheel planned for Beacon Street West.
Food and Craft Courts 10am-8:30pm
Planned Locations: City Hall lot on Beacon Street East, Farmers’ Market Area on Main Street and near the Ferris Wheel on Beacon Street West. Macaroni and Cheese, chili and fried dough, plus plenty of pumpkin-inspired treats are among the menu offerings prepared by local non-profit organizations as well as professional vendors. In addition to food offerings, the Food & Craft Court includes three dozen artisans offering crafts from glassware to fudge with many returning favorites. Necessary facilities nearby.
Spectacular Pumpkin Tower Plus Thousands of Jack-o’-Lanterns on Street-level Displays
The signature tower is the centerpiece of Pumpkin Festival 2015. Streets will be lined with pumpkins and pumpkin spectators, for smooth strolling and the best viewing, unfettered by vendor booths and queues. Families and seniors will feel very welcome and handicap parking in excellent locations makes access easy. Live musical entertainment will add to the atmosphere on the bandstand and at other selected locations but the sights will carry the day!
Other possibilities are being explored but are not yet finalized, including the Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad operating between Weirs Beach and Laconia during the festival as the first-ever Pumpkin Express.
Organizers are also hoping to be able to offer assisted transport through the festival for visitors unable to walk. This would be a first for the pumpkin festival but has been on the wish list for many years. Details will be released as soon as they are available.
Another important matter to be determined in the next 60 days is whether the Laconia festival will officially vie for the Guinness World Record for the most lit jack-o’-lanterns in one place–a record recaptured from Boston by Keene in 2013 (30,581). Although organizers will be counting the pumpkins and tallying an official count, the decision of whether or not to have the attempt at the record sanctioned by Guinness or not has yet to be made.
The 2015 Pumpkin Festival runs from 10am-8:30pm on Saturday, October 24 in the heart of NH, downtown Laconia. More information will be posted as available online at pumpkinfestival.org