Riots Break Out at Keene Pumpkin Festival in New Hampshire, and it Got Pretty Violent

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Here's a sentence I never anticipated I'd write: rioting broke out at a pumpkin festival in New Hampshire's Keene State College Sunday morning. It's been described as a violent and chaotic scene, and it resulted in the hospitalizing of multiple people, according to the Boston Globe. How or why the rioting started isn't entirely clear, except that this wasn't a protest, or a situation backed by any coherent ideology at play. Rather, the Globe's correspondents reported that thousands of partying college-age students started indulging in drunken, explosive clashes.

This is, to say the very least, surprising. The Keene Pumpkin Festival isn't exactly an edgy or subversive event. It's mainstay achievement, in fact, is kind of delightfully humble and enthusiastic — they try to set the Guiness World Record for most lit jack-o'-lanterns in one place at one time. This year, according to the festival's website, they turned in an impressive tally, with 21,912 lanterns gleaming in the night — a pale shadow of 2013's record-setting 30,581, but cause for celebration all the same.

But sadly, that isn't what the occasion will best be remembered for, and everybody clearly knows that now. At the top of the festival website sits a slightly cryptic, yet very telling message, reflecting on the fracas that unfolded in the early morning hours.

The Globe quoted a number of citizens of the city of Keene, and there was a familiar ring to the dismay: the pumpkin festival was supposed to be a fun, annual ritual of the fall season, and yet it devolved into drunken, violent chaos, eventually met with teargas from local police. According to Keene State University Ellery Murray, debris was flying through the air.

Curiously enough, the festival got a bit more high-profile media recognition this year than it had in years past. If you're a viewer of John Oliver's Last Week Tonight on HBO, you may recall that his segment on the Ferguson protests also mentioned a New Hampshire town which secured an armored military vehicle, on the pretense of protecting their pumpkin festival from terrorism. (Relevant portion begins at 7:20).

LastWeekTonight on YouTube

Yup, that was Keene, New Hampshire. And notably, despite the militarized police response those Ferguson protests sparked, the police in Keene never did roll out their MRAP, even after the large-scale rioting broke out with fires and bottle-throwing. Teargas, however, was another story. As for what happens next, a number of students could be facing down some pretty dire consequences — Keene State President Ann Huot has said that some will face expulsion for their role in the incident.