Ruth Sterling’s Report on the 2013 Keene Pumpkin Festival
Setting the goal
The goal was to bring home the record lost to Boston years ago. The title belongs in this region and a new generation of local kids deserve the feeling of being World Champions.
The co-goal was to develop enough fund-generating programs to get the great orange festival in the black because in its third year, the new organizers have struggled mightily to achieve this.
Getting to the goal
We started from envisioning 8pm Saturday, October 19, 2013, the exact moment when Mayor Kendall Lane would announce that Keene Pumpkin Festival had set a new World Record. In February, May, June, July (you get it) I would say to A-team participants, “OK, it’s 8pm Saturday, October 19. Mayor Lane just announced that we won. How did we get there? What could possibly stop us?” Every day mother nature shared challenging weather like torrential rain, I would set the expectation: “How do we win in this? Because we will win and this can’t stop us.” That focus was a key success factor.
People stepping up
To anyone who says “Congratulations” to me… I need to mention that I carved one pumpkin. I did not carve 30,581 pumpkins. I carved one pumpkin, and needed help finishing it from some beautiful young people at the Gilbo Ave carving station.
In other words, countless people came together as a team and won this World Record. I did my job as best I could. Clearly other people did their best too. So many other people I could never list or remember them and I may not even know what they did or who they are. But without them and their best… well, I’m not going to consider any result but success.
I am going to keep listening to hear every report of every City staff member, every family, every individual who wanted to believe in possibility and let their lights shine. We all have a little light and if we don’t let it shine, we are cheating the world. And we are cheating ourselves. A snuffed out light is the biggest waste of resources I can imagine. Please try, against all odds, to let your little light shine–each day, for whatever cause you are assigned to by the great force of good in our world, please may we all try to “let it shine.” Not make it shine, not shove someone else out of the way to try to get the biggest shine, not ask ourselves if anyone else’s light seems to be shining more. All that matters is if we are LETTING our little lights shine. Sounds child-like but sometimes that’s way smarter than adult-like.
Never, ever giving up
Four years ago, someone gave me the secret that won the day. He said, “Keep going toward the end zone. Even if you think you’ve been TACKLED, you may not be down for good. Keep getting up and pressing forward to the end zone.” That part about “think you’ve been tackled” is the magical part. How many times did I FEEL tackled? Did I FEEL like the big THEY had defeated puny me? That THEY don’t get it and THEY are going to win? I am no great running back. But I watch the greats slam into a tackler, spin off and find a hole. Like a mouse in a maze, if I hit the end of the passageway I turned and kept looking for the cheese. Maybe there WAS a way and that wall was just there to unpleasantly guide me in a different direction. Maybe some brilliant idea was about to come from someone else letting their light shine. Maybe help would arrive.
It all paid off just after twilight on Saturday, October 19. Guinness adjudicator Kim certified our attempt and declared us the new World Record holders. 30,581 lit jack-o’lanterns in one place at one time–information Mayor Kendall Lane shared with a record crowd at 8pm. Precisely as we envisioned it happening. The magic of the day cannot be described quickly enough to post this. Try to think of the best feeling in the world and multiplying it by 30,581.
When I interview entry level candidates for internships I ask them “What is your dream job? What does it look like? Are you in an office? Are you in a city? Who else works with you?” My questions are intended to get people started on envisioning their career paths. If the reply is, “I’d like to work outside,” they might not be suited for the kind of work we do here. And yet, some of our most important projects do take us outside, including events management.
Looking back, I have always known I would like to own a very special ad agency where everyone cared about what they were doing and did the right things for the right reasons. I thought the environment should be well-lit, professional, comfortable, stimulating. There would be ten or twelve co-workers coming and going—all dedicated, capable and inspiring. I’d work really hard, learn difficult things continually, stay young at heart while growing wise. Stunningly beautiful work would be displayed without dominating the scene. It would all be brilliant.
If life is what happens while we’re busy making plans, my case is a good example. I settled in Keene, NH, by happenstance. The opportunity to work at a corporate communications job one hour from my hometown was enticing. Although I thought I was heading to Boston, I in fact was sent in the opposite direction to Keene, NH, where Markem Corporation was headquartered. The opportunity to “grow up” in a 5th generation multi-million dollar, international enterprise was life-directing. Markem’s mission, vision and values resonated with me and taught me how business should be conducted. The experience was more precious than ten college degrees.
I took a leave of absence from Markem to have a family and finish two degree programs. Just a few weeks into that leave, Markem hired me to design a commemorative issue of their corporate magazine. I was all ready. My co-worker at Markem, an illustrious writer, had asked me to design the MacDowell Colony annual report. And so, Sterling Design & Communications was born and grew along with a beautiful family that after a while became a single-parent household. Busy, busy times. My son and daughter kept me up to date with trends and popular culture, knew more about my office computers than I did. Helped brainstorm logos and themes. Were my priority clients. Played three varsity sports each. Excelled and went into the world.
Clearing the way for a growth spurt of projects and revealing that my dream job was the job I have. I manage a very special ad agency where superbly talented, caring, amazing co-workers, sub-contractors and clients come together in a beautifully lit, wonderful creative atmosphere. And create solutions, design magical things and work very hard.
Sterling Design & Communications: Ready to embrace change, respect tradition, and help make good things happen.