Eight days til Milford Pumpkin Festival

MILFORD – The first Milford pumpkin festival was held during the tail end of a hurricane. Marilyn Kenison, one of the organizers, remembers standing among the pumpkins soaking wet, and Dick McDonald motioned for her to come over to his shop, and she wound up drying her hair in his barber chair.

That was 25 years ago, and “I thought we would probably never do it again,” Kenison said, during a recent interview.

The point of that first festival was to raise money to renovate the Town Hall auditorium, and Kenison’s committee was discouraged.

But “people came out in the rain, and we raised more money than we’d ever thought,” she said.

The Town Hall Auditorium Restoration Committee was trying to raise $267,000 to pay off the cost of extensive auditorium renovations.

The building’s restoration had been funded by a voter-approved bond issue, but residents decided that the auditorium should be paid for with donations and fundraising.

Once “one of the most magnificent civic buildings in New Hampshire,” wrote the late Patti Rotch in the 1988 Town Report, it was now in sad shape.

It had been a place where townspeople enjoyed concerts, plays, basketball games, fairs and dances, and by the late 1980s plaster was falling from the ceiling and the faded outline of an old basketball court could still be seen on the scarred floor. The windows were partly obscured.

The committee’s first idea was to sell local pumpkins around town in a truck, “like an ice cream truck,” Kenison said,” so there would be a pumpkin on every doorstep.”

But they decided to sell them on the Oval instead. It was a small affair, no outside vendors, just the pumpkins and a few people selling arts and crafts and baked goods.

Over the years, the event grew to be the giant, weekend-long party it is today, spreading across downtown Milford from the Milford Fire Station to the Community House, featuring some of the largest pumpkins in New Hampshire and attracting tens of thousands of people.

The festival is organized by the Milford Improvement Team and will begin the evening of Friday, Oct. 10 with fireworks.

New this year are a cornhole tournament on Friday night on the Community House lawn and a zombie walk Saturday night, also on the Community House Lawn.

There will be a beer and wine tasting street party, kids activities, a Saturday night talent show (with $1,000 in prizes), pumpkin weighing, and 30 musical acts on two stages.

Also new this year is a raffle for a family ski pass.

For more information go to www.milfordpumpkin

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, ext. 304, or kcleveland@