I crossed setting a Guinness World Record off my bucket list on October 19, 2013, and so did my daughter at the tender age of 10! Of course, we had a bit of help. We carved only two of the 30,851 pumpkins that enabled Keene, New Hampshire, to reclaim the title of Jack-o-lantern Capital of the World. As you'll see in these pictures, it was a mind-boggling achievement to amass these grinning, glowing, one-of-a-kind gourds along Main Street and to keep them lit during the 5-minute period when a Guinness adjudicator-led team certified the count. An hour later, we inhaled the scent of warmed pumpkin and held our breath as Mayor Kendall Lane revealed the record-smashing total: a number more than 31% greater than the entire population of Keene!
The vibrant little city is no stranger to jack-o-lantern glory. Keene set its first world record for the most intentionally carved, lit pumpkins in one place at one time with just 1,628 jack-o-lanterns during the second annual Keene Pumpkin Festival in 1992. Over the next decade, the Keene Pumpkin Festival raised the bar repeatedly, setting an eighth Guinness World Record in 2003 with 28,952 jack-o-lanterns. Then came a 10-year drought.
What happened? Keene relinquished its place atop the pumpkin heap to New England rival Boston, which hosted its one and only attempt to set a world record in 2006. The 30,128 jack-o-lanterns compiled on Boston Common stood as the untouchable record for years. Keene tried annually but fell short.
In 2013, bolstered by the colossal donation of 20,000 pumpkins by C&S Wholesale Grocers, the Keene Pumpkin Festival took serious measures to reestablish its pumpkin preeminence. We were so impressed by organizers' efforts to meet Guinness's stringent rules. And we'll never forget how we shouted and celebrated with the crowd when the new record was announced. Ruth Sterling, who owns the festival's management company, STERLING Design & Communications, said the magic of that moment was like taking the "best feeling in the world and multiplying it by 30,581."
Your next chance to feel on top of the world by taking a knife to a pumpkin comes October 18, 2014 at the 24th annual Keene Pumpkin Festival.