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The Loon Center welcomes holiday cheer

Four-year-old Isabella Roman from Meredith helps decorate the Christmas tree. Lauren Tiner. (click for larger version)
December 02, 2009
MOULTONBORO — The Loon Center celebrated their 17th annual Holiday Open House last Saturday with Santa, Mrs. Claus, little helpers, and a Christmas tree to top it all off and attract a crowd during their slower season.

Young children got to sit on Santa Claus's lap by the tree and tell him what presents they hoped to receive this holiday season while Loon Center Director Rachel Williams, disguised as Mrs. Claus, walked around handing out treats.

Kids flocked to their favorite entertainer, magician Phil the Balloonologist for animal balloons, and younger children made loon calendars and homemade holiday cards downstairs while some parents browsed the gift shop.

About 300 to 400 people attend the four hour event every year, according to Senior Biologist and Executive Director Harry Vogel. He said the Holiday Open House at the Loon Center during the colder months to be one of his favorite events.

"This happens a time of year that is a little bit quieter. It is a great way to remind people that we are here, and open year-round. The summers are about bringing tourists and families in," said Vogel.

He said that local businesses generously donated soups, dips, cookies, pies, cider and more to the event this year to keep visitors fully satisfied. Vogel said this is a pleasant time of year considering the holidays, yet a bittersweet time for Loon Center volunteers and employees.

"This happens at a time when the loons have left for the ocean. The timing is really good for an event. People are looking for non-commercial things to do with their kids," said Vogel.

He said the Loon Center used to hold their open house a week or two after Thanksgiving, yet holding the event earlier has proved to be more popular for families tired of shopping.

Board members of the Preservation Committee and a large amount of volunteers always make sure to plan ahead for the open house, said Vogel, and they try to touch base with local businesses and secure donations to run the annual holiday extravaganza. Vogel said he has a small staff and that these events would not be possible without dedicated volunteers.

He added that families can also walk through the trails behind the Loon Center, snowshoe and cross-country ski through the area in the winter. While visitors participant in recreational winter fun, sit by fireplaces, and bake homemade cookies, the board is organizing and preparing for the loon's arrival.

"This time of year we are analyzing data we collected, writing funding proposals, and putting together the budget. Things are tough. It is hard for non-profit organizations right now. We are leaner than last year," said Vogel. "The good news is that we haven't had to lay anyone off."

In a more positive light, Vogel said that despite the economy, his board has been able to conquer even bigger goals this year. He said they managed to put out a record amount of nesting rafts this year, save a record number of loons, and carry out a large amount of presentations.

"Even with tougher economic times, we are doing more than ever before. The needs are greater for the loons no matter what the economy," said Vogel.

Vogel's favorite entertainer, Mr. Phil the balloonologist, happens to be a loon supporter as well and has graced the event for almost 10 years. The well known "balloonologist" lives in Laconia and has been making his living as an entertainer for 25 years. He said he attends the loon festival as well and loves to support the Loon Preservation Committee's cause.

"I am a loon supporter, although I haven't held one up," joked Mr. Phil. "They (the committee) take great care of us and include us in all their activities. I have watched all the kids grow up. They do a lot of good work."

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