Remembering the ups, the downs, the comings and goings of our Valley


Year in Review 2009



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Remember Josh the Camel? He not only climbed the Auto Road - the first camel ever! - but he received a Certificate of Appreciation from U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen for his nearly six hour trek. (click for larger version)
December 31, 2009
Already hit by the constriction in consumer spending due to the ongoing recession, the Valley's tourism businesses suffered from the cool, cloudy weather in June and July. Fortunately, the sun came out more frequently in the second half of the summer, and in October the fall foliage was spectacular, with an overabundance of bright reds, despite, or perhaps because of, the damp summer.

The Valley lucked out with the winter weather, which was chilly and snowy, perfect for winter recreation. According to Mount Washington Observatory statistics, the summit went 45 days, from Dec. 28, 2008 to Feb. 10, 2009, without the temperature going above freezing. This was good for ski areas, which could make snow for their slopes when Mother Nature didn't come through.

Among the events that benefited from the wintery weather was the Tamworth Sled Dog Races, held at Lake Chocorua in late January, and which in some years past has been cancelled due to lack of snow and cold. This was also good for the 500 outdoor enthusiasts who took part in the sweetness at the inns along the trail of the 20th Annual Chocolate Tour.

It made for a good winter vacation week, too. The Mount Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce reported that those members who responded to a business survey said their all-important February Vacation Week was strong.

The national recession did directly affect the Valley, with several businesses pulling out of Settlers' Green not long after the2008 Christmas buying season. KB Toys, which had been in and out of

bankruptcy, went completely out of business, while Music4Less gave up its North Conway location. But by this Christmas shopping season those spaces were leased out to other companies, eager to tap into the outlet shoppers' buying power.

The year started off with a new occupant in the White House, as President Barack Obama, the first African-American elected to the country's highest post, took office promising change. The White House wasn't the only place to get a new boss. At the end of June Gary Poquette, CEO of Memorial Hospital in North Conway for nearly 30 years, retired. His replacement, Scott McKinnon, who had previously served as vice president of Lankenau Hospital in Pennsylvania, took over in July.

There was a change at the Conway Public Library, too, as Margaret Marschner retired after 39 years as the director of the Conway Public Library, handing the daily responsibilities of managing the library to Tara Thomas. Jack Loynd, principal of Kennett High School, turned the keys to that educational institution to Neal Moylan, who had served as the director of the school's Career and Technical Center. SAU 9 Superintendent Carl Nelson put his previously announced retirement on hold for another year.

And then the rain came, and came, and came. But residents of the Valley carried on, as they always carry on. Local calendar of events remained chock-full of fun and interesting things to do, from events at the Mount Washington Auto Road down to a full slate of programs at Remick Country Doctor Farm and Museum.

Local theater continued to thrive. The Mount Washington Valley Theater Company completed its 39th season, the venerated Barnstormers in Tamworth, its 78th season. Community theater thrived, too, with M&D Productions and Arts in Motion both producing a full season of locally-based theater.

And the hills were alive with the sound of music. Arts Jubilee celebrated its 27th season, the Annual Bach Festival its 21st. Some of the larger attractions, like the Mount Washington Auto Road and the Conway Scenic Railroad, hosted multiple events. The Auto Road saw racers on foot for the Mt. Washington Road Race, and twice on bicycles for the Mt. Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb in August, and Newton's Revenge in July. The rain in June didn't dampen the spirits of the motorcyclists who took part in Ride to the Sky, a day during Laconia Bike Week when the Auto Road is open to cyclists and guided tours only.

By far the most interesting mammal to make it up the Auto Road did it on four legs. Josh the Camel, whose exploits were chronicled on YouTube, made it up one drizzly July day, with the help of his handlers. Josh even got a Certificate of Appreciation from U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen for his nearly six hour trek up the eight-mile Auto Road.

In September, Cranmore hosted the 12th Annual Jen's Friends Climb Against Cancer, and in Schouler Park, humans and their best friends met at the 12th Annual Bark in the Park Expo.

The soggy summer didn't stop the corn from growing for the Sherman Farm's third annual corn maize in East Conway, which was open to the public from mid-September through Halloween. October brought the 12th Annual Oktoberfest at Bear Peak and the Ghoullog at Mount Cranmore, and, of course, the Fryeburg Fair.

Several restaurants changed locations in 2009. Shalimar of India moved

from a building in North Conway Village to the Strip, with A Taste of Thai, formerly across from T.J. Maxx, moving into Shalimar's place on Seavey Street. Maestro's Café & Deli moved out of North Conway Village to the north, in the building that for years housed the Carriage Inn Restaurant.

Throughout the year there was a green push in Mount Washington Valley, as a renewed interest in all things sustainable, from energy to food,

took greater hold in these tougher economic times. In May the 11th Annual Business to Business Expo was held at the Mount Washington Hotel, its theme for the 2009 event "B2B Goes Green, People, Planet & Profits."

Also in May, the Mount Washington Valley Green Team's Local Food and Sustainable Agriculture Subcommittee held a grand opening and celebration of the spring planting season on Tasker Hill Road just outside Conway Village, on the land of Russ and Joan Lanoie. Valley Community Gardeners were able to rent 4- by 8-foot organic garden plots.

The Valley lost some of its most involved members this year. Janet Hounsell of Conway, 82, whose keen interest in local history and witty writing style inspired many, left the chronicling of life in Conway to others when she died in September, just a few days after her fellow historian and witty writer, David Emerson, 60. Both helped us remember the past, and both helped us take a longer view of the present.

From Maryellen LaRoche and Deryl Flemming to Jerry Downs and Jimmy Mersereau, many others who died during 2009 made contributions great and small to making Mount Washington Valley a community and not just a tourist destination.

Here's to 2010. May we always remember the sun never stops shining behind the clouds.

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