How do you turn a quaint-sounding celebration of autumn into a full-on riot? Add some wasted young people. Keene, New Hampshire’s annual pumpkin festival — which features a community-wide effort to “set a world record of the largest number of carved and lighted jack-o-lanterns in one place,” according to CBS Boston — saw at least 14 arrests and dozens of injuries this weekend as hordes of Keene State College students and their guests took to the small town’s streets for no apparent reason other than to cause trouble.
The Boston Globe reports that hundreds of people were seen “throwing bottles, uprooting street signs, and setting things on fire,” as well as overturning cars and Dumpsters. Cops outfitted in SWAT gear responded with “tear gas, tasers, and pepper spray.” The Keane Police Department claims that one group of rioters “threatened to beat up an elderly man,” while others threatened the lives of the cops, who had to call for backup from nearby towns.
“I am saddened and disheartened at the events surrounding this year’s Keene Pumpkin Festival. Despite the concerted efforts of organizers, city officials, police, and Keene State College, there continued to be disruptive behavior at parties in multiple locations around the city, injuries, and property damage,” said college president Anne Huot, who promised to hold students involved in the chaos responsible for their actions.
Meanwhile, a recent Keene graduate told the Globe, “Pumpkinfest has always been fun. Yeah, kids drink excessively, but it’s never been out of control. This year I watched thousands of kids pile into a backyard and kind of go crazy.” Kind of!