It’s October. Halloween is approaching, but because of pandemic concerns the usual trick-or-treaters are not expected across much of America. In some communities the practice has been temporarily outlawed; in many others, people are simply being encouraged to minimize person-to-person contact.
There have been different ways to get around the problem… some people are leaving candy bowls outside, while others have constructed tubes of more than six feet, down which they will slide candy to attending children. For our part, my family is engaging in “reverse trick-or-treating”… we’re making up bags of candy for friends of the family and my daughter’s classmates and will be driving around, dropping the bags outside their doors and taking pictures of my daughter, in costume, making the delivery.
The trappings of the holiday are already showing up in our neighborhood. Fake spiderwebs, plastic gravestones in yards, and of course the familiar jack-o-lanterns. Those iconic devices of Halloween, created from gourds and turnips and beets in Europe but almost exclusively pumpkins in North America, are found throughout the United States.
They were particularly noteworthy in Keene, New Hampshire. The city held its first harvest festival in 1991, and it was such a success that in their second year they successfully attempted to set the world record for having the most hand-carved, lit, jack-o-lanterns.
The next year even more people contributed to the festival. They broke the record again. And again. They didn’t get a new record every year – particularly in the years where rain fell over festival weekend, the number of people who brought their jack-o-lanterns diminished – but they did manage to set new world records nine times between 1992 and 2013.
In 2014, it all came to an end. The excitement over pumpkins triggered excessive drinking and riotous behavior. How bad was it? Well, here’s some recorded footage of news coverage afterward. You’ll notice they discuss the multiple hospitalizations (although thankfully no deaths) and the overturned cars and rubber bullets.
As noted in the interview above, this wasn’t a couple of groups using the pumpkin festival as a pretext for their fighting. This was just spontaneous brawling and drunken violence… and it was definitely triggered in part by the student groups. Video later emerged of people in different fraternity houses tossing bottles at each other and passers-by. LOTS of bottles:
The festival was capped in subsequent years, and is now a shadow of what it had once been. Gone are the days of 29,000 jack-o-lanterns arranged for display. Now they have a limit of 5,000, no vendors are allowed, and it is designed with children in mind.
This is why we can’t have nice pumpkins.
Question of the night: Are you doing anything unusual for Halloween this year?