CONCORD, N.H. - When it comes to pumpkins, it pays to be painstaking.
Careful attention to onerous rules helped the city of Keene again break the world record for the most lit jack-o'-lanterns. Guinness World Records confirmed that 30,581 carved and lit pumpkins were displayed Saturday night, topping the record of 30,128 pumpkins set by Boston in 2006.
Guinness officials are sticklers, but festival organizers and volunteers work hard to meet the stringent requirements, said Ruth Sterling, owner of the festival's management company, Sterling Design & Communications. That means rejecting pumpkins that flame out during the five-minute judging period or don't appear to have been "intentionally designed." In other words, you can't just punch a hole in a pumpkin and consider it "carved."
"Sometimes it's from a 4-year-old and that's the best they can do," Sterling said. "We get a little mad about it, but we comply."
Started in 1991, the Keene Pumpkin Festival netted its first world record in 1993 with fewer than 5,000 pumpkins. Before Saturday, it's most recent record-setting event was in 2003, with 28,952 jack-o'-lanterns. This is the ninth time it has held the record.
In 2010, the group that had been running the festival stepped aside because the event had grown too large to manage, but it was saved by a nonprofit organization called Let it Shine, Inc. In recent years, Keene has enjoyed a friendly competition with Highwood, Ill., and both were featured on HGTV's "Pumpkin Wars" last year.
Highwood officials hoped to snatch the record with 30,919 jack-o'-lanterns in 2011, but Guinness officials did not accept the tally. This year's total in Highwood was 28,036, said Tali Hylen of Ripple Public Relations.
"It rained and was windy Saturday night, preventing our crew from climbing scaffolding," Hylen said. "The boards were too slick and we couldn't risk safety."
In an update posted on the Keene festival's website on Monday, Sterling described the moment the total was announced Saturday night.
"The magic of the day cannot be described quickly enough to post this," she wrote. "Try to think of the best feeling in the world and multiplying it by 30,581."