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Keene State chaos turns annual pumpkin festival into a violent riot



Molly McHugh

Internet Culture

Posted on Oct 19, 2014   Updated on May 30, 2021, 9:20 am CDT

Saturday night, our nation’s seasonal reverence for all things pumpkin turned ugly when the Keene, N.H. 24th Annual Pumpkin Fest was violently disrupted by “unruly” crowds, fires, and tear gas.

How a family event (a day that includes a display of Jack-O-Lanterns created by local schoolchildren and grants admission for a suggested $5 donation and a carved pumpkin) turned so ugly remains at large.

Some are pointing to partying Keene State college students as a source of the chaos (the event takes place near the campus). According to the Sentinel Source, “Hordes of college-aged people overwhelmed the area, traveling en masse from street to street, and testing the manpower of police from across the area, who dressed in riot gear. Police worked to prevent the crowds from pushing into the Pumpkin Festival footprint.” The college has been a reported source of disruption in recent years.



#keenestate I got shot at. Save the childern!

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Bystanders have also inferred that out-of-towners were part of the destruction, and that what may have began as a rowdy, drunken crowd took a decidedly serious turn once police stepped in. Things eventually escalated to overturned cars and fire in the streets. Police responded with tear gas and pellet guns.



Wait…. What happened to pumpkin fest being a fun event.. This isn’t fun.. #pumpkinfest2k14 #keenestate #trashed #notokay

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The mob overtook the entire festival; various people were admitted to the hospital with lacerations from broken liquor bottles. Others claim that students were tear-gassed by police at an uninvolved party during the afternoon. About 30 people were reportedly injured.

Keene State College president Anne Huot says that the school is aware of the student role in yesterday’s violence and that identifiable students will be held accountable.



I don’t usually #regram , but when I do, it’s of the town I went to school at rioting like a bunch of drunk idiots. #drunkfreshman #pumpkinfest #keenestate thx for the post @tedcol

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#Keene State College swamped with riot police

— G U N N E R (@gunnerhoffman) October 19, 2014

Last week, John Oliver mocked the Keene P.D.’s request for armored vehicles; the department thought the pumpkin festival could be targeted by terrorists. 

The Keene Pumpkin Festival website has a simple message regarding the events: “Yesterday gave us many lessons; sorting them out and learning will take time. There is some thing each of us can to do help. And there is some comfort in remembering Mr. Rogers’ wisdom, ‘look for the helpers.’ In the helpers, there is hope.”

H/T CBS Boston | Photo via WMUR9

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*First Published: Oct 19, 2014, 12:06 pm CDT