Keene’s Pumpkin Fest spirals out of control

Castleton junior Scott Petershon poses in front of police
at Pumpkin Fest in Keene, N.H.
Courtesy Photo

If you think tensions are high between the Castleton community and the college, imagine what it’s like in Keene, N.H. these days.   

The Keene New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival is always a party, one that Castleton students frequently venture to. But this year Keene State students and visitors took the party to level that no one expected.

 By early evening, Oct. 18, there were police in riot gear, bottles being thrown through the air, tear gas, fires and flipped cars. The town was trashed

“We showed up to a huge day party with a couple hundred people and everyone was throwing cans and bottles in the air,” said Jake Covell, a Castleton senior.

 It wasn’t long before people started getting hit, and it started getting dangerous.

“Next thing I knew riot squads were breaking stuff up. It was fun, but it got out of hand quick,” Covell said.

 Out of hand might be an understatement. As the night went on the cops were becoming more desperate to control the crowds.

Callie Ginter, a Castleton junior, remembers cars barely being able to get through the streets.

Castleton student Andrew Cremins said there were hoards of drunken college kids on every single street, at every party house and everywhere you looked.

“At one point, we went to a party, and in the back yard was essentially a mob of people,” Cremins said. “In the middle of that mob was a big empty gap where a few dudes were standing, yelling and throwing stuff into the crowd that surrounded them.”

This started a chain reaction and soon beer cans, bottles, basketballs and even shopping carts were being flung in every direction.

That’s when the police showed up and released the tear gas.

Cremins made his way through a cloud of gas, “basically making it impossible to breathe.”

Another Castleton student, Victor Cucullo felt the effects of the tear gas long after after it was released.

“I remember walking through an area where the cops used tear gas an hour before and I still felt it,” Cucullo said.

By the time night fell, the streets were flooded, Ginter recalled.

“There were helicopters flying over with spot lights yelling, ‘Please evacuate! This town is on lock down!’ Pretty scary,” Ginter said.

Questions have arisen in the media coverage of the event as to whether the use of tear gas on a bunch of drunk kids was a bit extreme?

Covell didn’t think so.

“People were getting hurt, and it’s hard to control those situations without things like tear gas,” he said.

 So what caused it? In Covell’s opinion it was just drunken stupidity.

“I think everyone was just really drunk and trying to have fun,” he said. “Some people just started doing dumb things, and when everyone’s drunk, it catches on.”


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