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Dan Moran: Pumpkin rivalry on fire

Updated: November 19, 2012 3:15PM

The war between Lake County’s own Highwood and the New Hampshire hamlet of Keene has been going on so long that their children probably have no memory of peacetime. And the war is going hot again this weekend.

The hostilities in this case center on pumpkins. Tons of pumpkins. So many pumpkins that even if you bought them at Aldi or some other discount store that sends them out the door for three bucks a pop this time of year, you would spend close to six figures just to keep things respectable.

For the unaware, the unlikely rivalry between a small Chicago suburb and a town in the ninth least-populous U.S. state began at least three years ago, when Highwood boosters decided to challenge Keene’s status as the Guinness World Records holder for “Most Lit Jack-o’-Lanterns on Display.” If you don’t believe there is such a thing, visit

Note: Keene held this title until 2006, when it was eclipsed by Boston. But many things tend to get lost in the fog of war.

Anyway, on Saturday, both Highwood and Keene will share the spotlight — in this case, a spotlight provided by film crews from HGTV — as they attempt to top the aforementioned Boston record of 30,128 lighted jack-o’-lanterns. According to a news release announcing the battle, the winning community will receive a dollar-per-pumpkin donation from Riverwoods-based Discover Card, which in Highwood’s case would be donated to its public library.

It is duly noted that “official Guinness World Record adjudicators will be on-site in both locations to officially confirm when/if the record is broken.” Good work if you can get it.

Having been to the inaugural Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival in October 2009, I can attest that it does, indeed, feature an unusual amount of pumpkins, stacked higher than your house on scaffolding set up specifically for the event. In fact, my primary thought when gazing upon this magnificent spectacle was “this is going to take a really long time to clean up.”

If you can’t make it out to Sheridan Road and Highwood Avenue when the jack-o’-lanterns are ignited at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, you can set the old DVR for Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. when HGTV will air the premiere of “Pumpkin Wars!” We’ll see if The History Channel follows up with documentaries of its own on this historic, merciless, never-ending conflict.

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