The Pumpkin: Official Fruit of New Hampshire?

Dan Gorenstein of New Hampshire Public Radio reports on the quest of a group of 3rd- and 4th-graders to make the pumpkin the official state fruit.

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

And, staying in New Hampshire, and another attempt to raise standards. A campaign by the state's 15 newest lobbyists has restored some honor to the profession of influence peddling so besmirched by the activities of Jack Abramoff in Washington.

New Hampshire Public Radio's Dan Gorenstein has this report.

DAN GORENSTEIN reporting:

In Concord, registered lobbyists are branded with orange badges inside the capital. But when a group of first timers came to the State House recently, they sported orange t-shirts with pumpkins on them. They also brought their chaperones.

Mr. JOHNNY SILK (student): Good Morning, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee. My name is Johnny Silk. I am here to speak about the pumpkin.

GORENSTEIN: Fifteen third and fourth grade students from Wells Memorial came to persuade the agriculture committee that the state's representative fruit should be the pumpkin. Teacher Kathy Frick says the seed for pushing pumpkins came from civics class.

Ms. KATHY FRICK (Teacher, Wells Memorial):

We read about some kiddos in Florida that lobbied their lawmakers to make the orange the official state fruit, because it has never been made official. And I just said, you know I don't think New Hampshire has a state fruit. We went online. We looked it up. It didn't, we decided it would be the pumpkin. We were off.

GORENSTEIN: Students offered plenty of good arguments for the orange orb. Fourth grader Johnny Silk told the committee about the state's world dominance.

Mr. SILK: Keene, New Hampshire, holds the world's record for the most split pumpkins at almost 30,000 pumpkins. Throughout the fall, in every county, you will find fields and farm stands brimming with this bright, beautiful fruit.

GORENSTEIN: Fourth grader Logan Symons also offered a touch of theater.

Mr. LOGAN SYMONS (Student): One of the most famous images of the pumpkin as a glowing, sparkling, magical fruit comes from the Walt Disney movie Cinderella. As soon as that fairy godmother waived her magic wand and uttered the words, bippity boppity boo the pumpkin moved into the royal coach business. What an image.

GORENSTEIN: Simon's inner colleagues relentlessly sold both a pumpkin and their cuteness, and legislators were buying. But after the kids spoke, one man stepped forward to carve up the pumpkin plan.

Mr. CHUCK SOUTHER (Concord Apple Grower): I think the apple should be the New Hampshire state fruit.

GORENSTEIN: That's Concord apple grower, Chuck Souther.

Mr. SOUTHER: While pumpkins may be good for you, let's face it, they're just big and orange. And at the end of Halloween, they basically rot. We market apples nearly year round.

GORENSTEIN: It's an $8 million crop in the state. Souther says, it's the kind of business that should be promoted. Looking at first constituency in Northern New Hampshire, Committee Chair David Babson asked Johnny Silk to defend the pumpkin.

Committee Chair DAVID BABSON (New Hampshire): Up where I live a lot of people grow apples. Why do you think we should have the state fruit be a pumpkin rather than an apple?

Mr. SILK: Well, the apple is the state fruit in Vermont, and other states. So, we thought we could have something new.

GORENSTEIN: New Hampshire never, never follows Vermont's lead. Silk's explanation left the Chairman muttering about being upstaged. The kids from Wells Memorial, now back in class, say they hope the idea of honoring the pumpkin grows on lawmakers, and doesn't whither away. Legislators are supposed to take action on the bill by mid spring.

For NPR News, I'm Dan Gorenstein in Concord, New Hampshire.

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