Pumpkin Fest Organizer Defends Her Actions After Interrupting Riot Broadcast

One of the lead organizers of Keene N.H.’s annual Pumpkin Festival may have let her frustrations about nearby rioting get the best of her during a live newscast Saturday night.

Local broadcaster Jared Goodell covered over eight hours of the event for local public access channel Cheshire TV, and said organizer Ruth Sterling abruptly interrupted his broadcast as he started reading a statement about the ongoing chaos from Keene State College President Ann Huot.

In a recording of the encounter, Sterling is seen repeatedly grabbing for Goodell’s microphone and threatening to “pull the plug’’ on the broadcast, accusing Goodell of inciting rioters.

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“Are you a Free Stater?’’ Sterling asked Goodell before turning to the camera. “This is a family-friendly event. The footprint of the Keene Pumpkin Festival is 100 percent safe — we have a bigger crowd than we’ve ever had, I want them to have a wonderful evening and not be disturbed by people who aren’t even at the Pumpkin Festival.’’

She then turned back to face Goodell directly.

“So, if you think that inciting these people is a good idea, I’m going to pull the plug on you, because you are here as a guest of Keene Pumpkin Festival, and I assigned you this spot’’ she said. “Do not alarm our guests. Thank you.’’

You can watch video below:

Sterling defended her actions in an email sent Monday morning to Boston.com:

“I needed to keep 80,000 people safe. And one self-promoting punk could help me do that or TRY to impede me from doing that. I never regret when I try. Last night I was trying. I was not surrendering to fear, intimidation, threats,’’ Sterling wrote.

Goodell said Sterling approached his director about ending the broadcast but ultimately gave up trying to shut the show down.

“I would say over eight hours [of coverage] it was probably 90 percent about the festival, just talking to the families and kids with costumes, about the pumpkins, talking to local non-profit leaders,’’ Goodell told Boston.com “We talked about the riots in a safe way because we’re playing to viewers at home and we want to let the viewers at home know what the safety concerns are.

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“Cars were being turned over, fires were being set, a mass casualty [incident] was announced,’’ he added. “I’d say we underreported on the riots.’’

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