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Small Town Keene NH turned Big City
Keene, New Hampshire holds approximately 24,000 residents. “Townies” who grow up in Keene, typically stay to raise their children in the safe community. Their elderly parents congregate at local diners to read “The Keene Sentinel”, and talk about how Keene has turned into a “college town”. Students at Keene State College make up ¼ of the population, its popularity has grown steadily in the last 30 years increasing Keene’s diversity and unsettling the “Townies.”
Change is natural and reliable. Businesses will go belly-up or get resold and new signs come up with new owners eager for a fresh start in our little community. We often drive around town and see a veteran business or manufacturer has closed down. The store that you have seen all your life suddenly becomes a parking lot and ten other stores.
Some things stay the same however. The White Church and gazebo that heads downtown’s Central Square has been there since 1924 and every summer we are sure to see residents tote lawn chairs across the busy street to enjoy local bands and watch traffic rotate around them onto Keene’s Main Street.
Our Main Street is one of the five top widest main streets in America featuring restaurants, shopping and culture. Local artists are free to showcase their creations in storefront windows during the annual Art-Walk and regular live productions are seen at the Colonial Theatre located at the heart of the city.
Until recently, downtown was host to the Pumpkin Festival where thousands would bring carved pumpkins which would be carefully tagged and counted to see if we beat last years haul. Unfortunately, the disgraceful behavior of the college students created a riot last year which forced the community to choose between it's biggest tourist attraction and the safety of the residents. But in keeping with the spirit, Keene will hold this years Pumpkin Festival at the Cheshire Fairgrounds located just on the outskirts of it's borders in Swanzey on Rte. 12.
The Cheshire Fairgrounds hold their annual Cheshire Fair every August which includes rides, farm animals, tractor pulls, food and refreshment and the ever popular Demolition Derby, where the locals have a chance to crash into each other putting fun use to the old beat-up wrecks they've had "For Sale" signs on in their yards.
Once October is over we gas up snowmobiles, dig out skis and begin embracing the cold, which seems to last longer and longer these days. At least we’re prepared with the Ice and Snow Festival. I personally enjoy sipping on hot apple cider and watching the ice sculptures create beautiful works of art.
Brutal winters leave a white tip on the omnipresent Monadnock Mountain. The most climbed mountain in the world! As a child growing up here, the closest I came to a big city was reaching the top of Mount Monadnock and looking out to the outline of Boston. And that was only on a clear day. This mountain is a monument to reliability and will remain as consistent as the White Church and gazebo regardless of the happenings around it.