Sun shines on Milford Pumpkin Festival D’Amatos named citizens of the year

MILFORD – After a morning of rain, the big crowds for the Pumpkin Festival on Saturday didn’t come out until about 2 in the afternoon, and then they really came out.

“It was packed!” said Wendy Hunt, the head of the Milford Improvement Team, which coordinates the three-day festival each year.

This was Hunt’s first Pumpkin Festival, and she said town workers – police fire, the building department “and especially the Department of Public Works” made it a success.

“Over the past 15 years, I have coordinated a lot of big events,” she said, “and never before experienced so much cooperation and teamwork.”

During the seven months preparing for the Milford festival “no one said, ‘That’s not my job.’ It was never stressful, and we all had a good time,” she said. “I was very, very impressed with the town and the volunteers.”

This year was the festival’s 25th year, and Friday night it kicked off with an overflow crowd taking advantage of crisp October weather to fill the Oval for music, beer and wine tasting, a corn hole tournament, and to see the Pumpkin Runner and the lighting of Town Hall pumpkins, all followed by fireworks.

Honored as Milford’s Citizens of the Year on Friday night, were Dick and Nancy D’Amato, as well as the original committee members from the first festival in 1989, which was held to raise money to renovate the Town Hall auditorium.

Among the volunteers honored was Bob Kokko, of Kokko Realty, who has not only been volunteering his time for 25 years, but also donates about 1,500 pumpkins a year to the festival, Hunt said.

The D’Amatos were honored by the Milford Historical Society and the Milford Improvement Team.

Dick D’Amato is a Milford native who started as a clerk at the Milford Cooperative Bank and worked his way up to bank president, said Historical Society President David Palance as he honored the D’Amatos Friday night. Dick served on the Board of Selectmen for 30 years, he said, and called his wife, Nancy D’Amato, a “great volunteer and an amazing storyteller” when she worked at the Milford High School library and the Wadleigh Memorial Library.

The winner of the giant pumpkin contest was Peter Crisp of Nashua, and his pumpkin weighed in at a whopping 1,312.5 pounds. Second place went to John Girgus of Derry at 1,303 and in third, Barry LeBlanc of Merrimack with a 923 pound gourd.

Talent show winners included Madeleine Doris, a 17-year-old senior at Londonderry High School, who won first place for her singing. Second place went to aspiring opera singer Laura Millar of Mont Vernon, and third place to Chris Merra of Amherst for his artistic juggling.

The audience favorite award went to two 12-year-old best friends, Petra Shenk of Milford Middle School and Camryn Carlson of Amherst Middle School, who danced a dance they choreographed to John Meyer’s “Count on Me.”

Winner of a raffle for a family season pass at Crotched Mountain was Collette O’Connor of Milford.

Winner of the youth volunteer scholarship contest, sponsored by Trent Blalock and Marc Chareth of Edward Jones, went to Milford High School seniors Amanda Alcox and Savanah Miles.

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