A New Hampshire town will not host its annual Pumpkin Festival this fall after last year's event descended into an alcohol-fueled riot resulting in widespread damage and over 100 arrests.
The Keene City Council voted 13-1 not to grant a license to the nonprofit group that has put on the festival in the past. The nonprofit, Let It Shine, had wanted the city to develop a security plan for the festival at an estimated cost of more than $300,000.
"This is a decision we wish we didn't have to make," Councilor David Meader told the New Hampshire Union Leader. The councilor said that the town's fire and police chiefs had both recommended against holding the festival this year. Mayor Kendall Lane told the paper that he planned to push for the creation of a safety plan so that the town of around 23,000 could host future festivals.
The festival had been held annually since 1991 and was largely billed as a family-friendly event where participants try to set the record for most carved and lighted jack-o-lanterns. However, last year, police in riot gear used tear gas and pepper balls to control crowds that reached up to 2,000 people during disturbances that erupted near Keene State College. More than 170 students were disciplined.
People threw beer cans and bottles, billiard balls, rocks, debris and bottles full of liquor. State Police Col. Robert Quinn said there was the potential for serious injury or even death.
A police department log shows officers responded to 235 calls between 2:30 a.m. Friday and 3:30 a.m. Sunday. One group of young people threatened to beat up an elderly man, and another resident heard someone "threatening to kill officers," according to the police log.
Police said social media helped draw a large number of outsiders to the festival and contributed to the mayhem but also helped make arrests. Keene police used a new application where people could send images and video directly to police from their smartphones. By searching the images, police identified several suspects.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.