Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Pumpkin rager

Things have pretty much calmed down, but last week the biggest dealio on the local news was the Pumpkin Fest riots in Keene, New Hampshire.

Keene, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is a quite pleasant little city. I’ve never spent any time there, but I’ve driven through a few occasions, as it’s on the way to Bellows Falls, VT, where my husband hailed from. (We almost stayed in Keene once, after a pre-Internet fiasco with a B&B we’d booked in Vermont. When we rolled in on our way back from a nice stay in Burlington, we found that our B&B – advertised as ‘walking distance to town’ – was miles off the beaten path, and at the end of a long, unlit dirt road that included passage on a rickety old covered bridge. Once we got there, we realized that the scenario had ‘nervous breakdown’ written all over it, and decided to head back to Boston. But we almost stopped in Keene for the night before deciding that what we really wanted was our own bed and a double order of dun-dun noodles from Mary Chung’s.)

Among its other attributes, Keene is the home to Keene State College, which I take it is also known as Keene State Party School. It’s apparently been that way for quite a while. I read somewhere that, way back in the nineties, in those quaint pre-social media days when students threw keggers, not ragers, the school started shutting down over the weekend  closest to St. Patrick’s Day, when – as every New Englander knows – the green-beer induced vomit just spews.

Besides being the home to Keene State, Keene had for years hosted a Pumpkin Festival, showing off things like the most carved pumpkins ever, and featuring family fun.

Well, students being students, they wanted in on some of that fun, only their fun would be away-from-the-parents style fun.

For the last few years, Pumpkin Fest has been drawing bigger and bigger crowds of drunken 20-somethings. But this weekend was over the top. A few square blocks near the college were filled with thousands of people chanting obscenities, tearing down street signs, lighting fires. SWAT Teams marched through the streets in Kevlar, shooting pepper balls, tear gas and foam rubber bullets. (Source: NPR)

The mayhem associated with Pumpkin Fest – thanks to Keens State students and their pals – has been escalating to the degree  that when Homeland Security gave them the opportunity to grab on to an armored personnel carrier, the Keene town fathers seized the chance. One of their stated reasons was to ensure that they could adequately police the Pumpkin Fest, which got the attention – and raised the mirth level – of Steven Colbert, among others.

I promise NOT to off on a tangent about the dangers of militarizing the police force, and whether every community needs a SWAT team (if you have one, you’ll use one, which is not necessarily a good thing). These are things that I’m completely in terror of.

In any case, I really don’t think that hundreds of drunken, out of control, imbecilic college kids – even though they’re hurling bottles at cops, starting fires, and turning over cars – need to be taken down by a tank. (Shields, batons, and plenty of arrests, on the other hand.)

But riot these a-holes did. (The kids, not the cops.)

And, since there’s no such thing as a par-tay unless there’s a public video made of it and posted, arrests are now starting to be made of those who hurled bottles, etc.

But just as the riot can safely said to be alcohol-fueled, it’s also likely that social media played an accelerant role:

…city and state officials are laying at least some of the blame on social media, and they've named one small party-hosting company. 

That party-hosting company, one FinnRage, is the “brain” child of a Massachusetts college student, one Trevor Finney, who, it seems, desperately wants to be an entrepreneur. And what with things like selling cookies in the dorm at 2 a.m., or typing/writing papers for $$$, so old-school, so done, young Master Finney looked to the Girls Gone Wild experience and figured that this model could well be his entry into the marvelous world of fame and fortune.

So he set up a business, FinnaRage TV, that runs campus parties. Part of the package is that he shows up to film them, making sure that the partygoers get to show all the world just how raging cool they are. So far, he’s been the host with the most for free, but he hopes to turn it into a lucrative (of course) business. After which, I suppose, at some point he grows up.

In the weeks leading up to Pumpkin Fest, FinnaRage promoted a party with a poster showing a scantily clad woman standing in a field of pumpkins. FinnaRage TV traffics in plenty of suggestive content. Their website is full of videos of people chugging beer, grinding on the dance floor, and in one instance, smoking a bong through a gas mask.

Aspiring entrepreneur Finney doesn’t think any of what happeend at Keene is his fault:

"We were put in the middle," says Trevor Finney, the 20-year-old owner of FinnaRage TV. "I got shot by a rubber bullet. Like…I…this is the last thing that I wanted."

Wah, wah, wah

"FinnaRage is about having a good time. It’s about the unique experience that we bring," says Finney. 

I suspect that it will be hard for anyone to make FinnaRage culpable for the Keene Pumpkin Fest Riot, even though he may have given the party riot a running start.

But it’s probably a good thing that Trevor Finney wants to be an entrepreneur.

Unless he takes down his website, makes his Twitter feed private, and does something to improve the results when you search on his name, this kid is not exactly helping his chances of getting a job with a bank or insurance company. That is unless the hiring managers are no longer prigs, but are now all rager wannabes.

Not that he would want to be some lackey, some management trainee, some no name, no fame no one who ekes out a decent albeit humble existence, and never gets the splash car, the fancy pad, the media buzz, the mega-blunt…

Not that there weren’t drunken debacles when I was in college. But the riots in those days actually had a bit more purpose than putting drunken narcissism on display.

And while Trevor Finney’s figuring out how to cash in – surely this has all put FinnaRage on the map, and schools outside of New England will start clamoring for his services – I don’t suppose that the admissions yield at Keene State is going to be all that great this year. Not if those boring old non-raging parents have anything to do with it.

Yet another reason to be glad I’m not young anymore…

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