and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.
Henry David Thoreau
When I think back, Pumpkin Fest likely had a lot to do with our final decision to move to this region. Upon receiving the news that Mario's company was offering him the New England territory, we pulled out our trusty U.S. atlas and set about exploring the region. Keene is centrally located, and therefore caught our immediate attention. We are researchers, by nature, so we learned all there was to know about the area. (Well, what was electronically available, anyway. Coming to understand the nuances of a region through a computer screen is unlikely.) Unintentionally, our first visit fell during Pumpkin Fest. The idyllic downtown, the sense of community... the wonder of it all. We knew, deep down, that this was the place we'd say we once lived.
Every year Keene, New Hampshire competes to regain a title last held in 2004: Guinness Book of World Records holder for most lit jack 'o lanterns at one time. Who thought up such things? But the magic is indescribable. Locals often carry disdain for this day: thousands of non-locals trying to navigate traffic circles, blocked streets, disrupted business... it is quite the to-do. Perhaps we have not had a chance to become so jaded. After six years, I still get excited. I hardly blinked at the idea of an otherwise 20 minute commute taking an hour, just so we could participate in the revelry. I sat in the car and sang along to 90s music with the boys. It was all good.
This year was bittersweet, knowing it would be our last. It's simply time to move on. Living here has come with a lot of trials. It has been the hardest and most rewarding six years of my life. The page must be turned, but being out there, surrounded by the glow of all those gourds, I felt a certain sadness. As we made our way toward Central Square, they began the obligatory speeches from the platform of the gazebo. Our local political representatives, the mayor, and officials from Guinness World Records. Then an unexpected occurrence: We. Won. In our final year, with 30,581 lit jack 'o lanterns, we triumphed.
In that moment I felt ready to say goodbye.
Keene's status as a record holder will be cemented in our minds from this day forth... because we witnessed the climb to the top. It's as if the world was trying to tell me it's time. Time to let go of the safe (but uncomfortable) existence we've had for the last few years. To let go and start anew. This all seems a bit deep for a festival that also includes copious amounts of college drunkenness, but I feel like we've come full circle. We started here, at Pumpkin Fest, and we leave having reached a pinnacle. Personally and as community members.
P.S. Night photography is a skill I have yet to master. Husband helped me adjust the camera settings and I snapped away. There were some blurry messes, but also some that I will treasure forever. As an ode to my desire to photograph more organically, I left these pictures untouched. No filtering or adjusting. The above photos are simply me attempting something outside my comfort zone; something I've been trying to do more of lately.