KEENE, N.H. (AP) – Portland is trying to carve out its place in holiday history by smashing Keene’s world record for displaying nearly 24,000 lighted pumpkins. But Keene’s mayor, who made a lighthearted diplomatic mission to the coastal city on Friday to accept the challenge, says Portland has its work cut out for it; even Keene has been unable to break its own record, set in 2000.

And the last community to challenge the record, Norwich, N.Y., came up with just 6,279 lighted pumpkins in 2001.

Keene at this point is coasting on Great Pumpkin momentum; last year, despite a cold rain, some 45,000 people attended the city’s Pumpkin Festival, bringing with them nearly 19,000 carved gourds.

This year Keene Mayor Michael Blastos is challenging the city to pass the 30,000-pumpkin barrier during the festival on Oct. 25.

On Friday, he accepted a pumpkin festival crown from Portland officials. If Portland manages an upset, Blastos will be obligated to return the crown to Portland.

He told the Keene city council he is doubtful Portland will even come close to Keene’s record of 23,727 carved, lighted pumpkins.

Keene pumpkin experts said the weather is key to a record turnout. This year pumpkin growers have enjoyed optimal growing conditions.

Clear weather during the festival weekend is key to attracting out-of-town visitors, who are all encouraged to bring their own carved, lighted pumpkin to help maintain the city’s bragging rights.

AP-ES-10-04-03 1518EDT

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