Organizers of this year’s Keene Pumpkin Festival in the HeART of Downtown Keene are putting out the call for donations and volunteers ahead of the event on Oct. 27.

According to Tim Zinn, lead organizer and board chairman of the nonprofit organization Let it Shine, which has put on the event since 2011, the festival has been awarded a $5,000 matching grant from The Putnam Foundation. In all, organizers have about $12,000 of their $39,000 goal left to raise, Zinn said, including $5,000 to match the grant. The match deadline is Wednesday.

The Putnam Foundation funds will go toward purchasing gourds for area schoolchildren to carve, Zinn said. Students from N.H. School Administrative Unit 29 and Monadnock Regional School District, along with area private and charter schools, will carve jack-o’-lanterns for this year’s festival. The event will also feature a carving tent with 100 pre-gutted pumpkins for attendees, according to Zinn.

Organizers expect to display about 3,600 pumpkins this year, he said.

This is the festival’s third year in its smaller iteration, which was rekindled in 2017 following a hiatus after riots erupted during the event in 2014, though they were outside the festival’s footprint.

For the first time since the event was brought back, pre-packaged food and drinks will be for sale this year to raise money for area nonprofit organizations, Zinn said. Another new feature will be a scavenger hunt requiring kids to solve a riddle and look for clues around Central Square, and local artists will also be on hand, painting mini murals on the Jersey barriers set up around the perimeter of the event.

A host of other family-friendly activities will return this year, such as a costume parade, pumpkin bowling and trick or treating at downtown businesses. Live entertainment is on tap throughout the afternoon, including performances from the N.H. Dance Institute, Zinn said.

Organizers typically need between 100 and 120 volunteers to help put the festival on, Zinn said, and are interested in partnering with local groups and organizations that may not have participated in the past.

The Keene Pumpkin Festival in the HeART of Downtown Keene is scheduled for Sunday, Oct. 27, from 1 to 7 p.m. in Central Square. To donate or sign up to volunteer, visit

Meg McIntyre can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1404, or Follow her on Twitter at @MMcIntyreKS.