In Keene, New Hampshire, there is an annual Pumpkin Festival each fall, which got off to its usual start yesterday as thousands of residents and tourists gathered to pick and carve pumpkins.
Last year, the festival hit a new world record after 30,581 pumpkins were carved, lit, and placed downtown at one time, the Boston Globe reported.
This year the arrangement looked beautiful as well:
But by the evening, the event took a chaotic turn. Hundreds of students gathered in the streets and backyards, drinking excessively and starting riots.
Witnesses said that college students started throwing "anything they could find."
Most of the damage was caused by students from surrounding colleges, not just Keene State students. Young people came from the University of New Hampshire, the University of Rhode Island, and the University of Massachusetts, reported the Globe.
“Pumpkinfest has always been fun,” said Julie Conlon, a recent graduate of Keene State College. “Yeah, kids drink excessively, but it’s never been out of control. This year I watched thousands of kids pile into a backyard and kind of go crazy.”
"There were about 4,000 kids in this backyard, and it almost felt like a war zone," Ellery Murray, a sophomore at Keene State, told the Boston Globe.
"People were just throwing everything they could find — rocks, skateboards, buckets, pumpkins. It was actually kind of scary."
At least 30 people were injured near Keene State by Saturday evening, and 20 people were transported to hospitals, Keene Fire Chief Mark Howard told New England Cable News.
Police responded quickly and with force, bringing canine units, SWAT gear, and using tear gas, tasers, and pepper spray against the students, according to witnesses and reports on social media.
“I watched cops roll in, I watched the fire department roll in, I watched state troopers roll in with their batons out, ready to take on the crowd,” said Conlon. “It was crazy.”
Between 2:30 a.m. Friday and 3:30 a.m. Sunday, there were 235 calls reporting disturbances or other offenses, and at least 49 arrests, the Associated Press reported.
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan said state and local police worked to mitigate the chaos, and Keene State College President Anne Huot said the college had "tried working with the city and campus to prevent unruly conduct."
"We deplore the actions of those whose only purpose was to cause mayhem," Huot said.