Milford Pumpkin Festival is just fine

MILFORD – The organizer of Milford’s Pumpkin Festival says she doesn’t expect any problems in the wake of the cancellation of the Keene’s festival.

Earlier this month the Keene City Council said it would not give a 2015 license to the city’s pumpkin festival, which has been going on for nearly a quarter of a century and is famous for its record-breaking towers of jack-o’-lanterns. The festival had been in doubt after an alcohol-fueled riot last year.

Wendy Hunt, head of the Milford Improvement Team, said Milford’s festival, held every year in October for the past 26 years, is mostly a family event and not likely to attract the kind of crowds that spoiled the Keene festival.

The Columbus Day weekend festival has always been peaceful.

“We control the crowds” by limiting the number of shuttle buses, Hunt said.

Because there is not a lot of downtown parking, shuttle buses are used to bring people from the middle school and high school, where there ample parking.

Keene’s festival was held on one day, and Milford’s is over three days, so that makes a difference, too, by spreading crowds over three days.

Milford’s is not the kind of event to which people would invite their college friends, she said, and police have zero tolerance for drunken behavior.

Milford will have a beer and wine sampling booth, as it has in the past, but “we are very strict about limiting the number of samples” and everyone served has to have a pre-purchased wrist band, Hunt said.

In December she met with representatives from all the town’s emergency services and the Department of Public Works to talk about what to do if there was an unruly crowd.

“It’s on our radar … anything is possible,” Hunt said, but Milford isn’t near a college campus.

She called the Keene cancellation “a huge shame,” especially for community organization and businesses that benefited from it.

The first Milford Pumpkin Festival was held in 1989 to raise money to pay for extensive renovations to the Town Hall auditorium. It was small, just pumpkins for sale, some arts and crafts and baked goods, but it has continued to grow over the years.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at 673-3100, Ext. 304.