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Fishing Derby creates community on the ice

Krystle Cilley and Annie Verville serve burgers in their Two Chicks Snack Shack. Erin Plummer. (click for larger version)
February 16, 2011
MEREDITH — A prize fish was not the only catch for anglers on the ice for the Great Meredith Rotary Derby; time with family and community and taking part in traditions were among the other prizes of the weekend.

Thousands of people hit the ice this weekend, not only to fish but to mingle with their friends and new fun and old traditions. Every bobhouse and fishing hole, from the largest and most decorated to the simplest, had a story behind it.

Sandy and George Frost of Meredith was out on the ice in their Adirondack styled "Bay View Cabin" with many home amenities.

This is the first time the Frosts have been out on the ice. They live around a mile from the ice and decided to put up a bobhouse after seeing all of them year after year. Sandy Frost said they found a used bobhouse on Craig's List and her husband gave it the Adirondack styling.

Branches were used for curtain rods and Sandy Frost made the curtains. The gingham couch was made from reupholstered camper cushions. French doors were put in, and there is a fence around the back porch of the house.

"We made it like a cabin," Frost said. "We have lakefront property with no taxes and we have a better view of Meredith Bay."

Frost said they have received many visitors and made new friends on the lake. A few neighbors helped them pull the house onto the ice and one neighbor brought over steak tips.

Sandy Frost said the fish, however, didn't want to join the party.

"It's just so nice to mingle and meet all these local people who just do this," Frost said. "We feel like we're a part of the crowd."

Mike Ainsworth of Meredith dedicated his bobhouse to his time in the military, painting it himself in camouflage with "US Navy Seabees Can Do" painted on the outside.

Ainsworth served in the Navy from 1987 to 1992, spending time in the Seabees. He then served in the Army from 2003 to 2004.

Ainsworth drives trucks for the town of Gilford and said he found the bobhouse abandoned on a beach. He said used about 20 cans of spray paint to paint the camouflage onto the house.

Ainsworth said he grew up in Meredith but lived in Missouri for about 15years. He returned to Meredith two years ago.

"It's home. It's nice to be around all the activity," Ainsworth said.

His father-in-law came up from Texas and his two stepsons, ages 9 and 12, joined him and his wife.

"I love it, it's just a great time to be out, enjoy being together, spend quality time with each other," Ainsworth said.

Mike Sleeper of Meredith said he used to go to the derby every year but stopped six years ago after the birth of his son Carson. The family returned with Carson and 4-year-old daughter Delaney along with their 5-year-old cousin Uma Connoly of Eliot, Maine.

"I've been coming to this for as long as I can remember," said Uma's father David Connolly.

"They love it. They've been ice skating, they took that ice fishing class (held by New Hampshire Fish and Game) and they loved it," Sleeper said.

Sleeper said the family caught four pickerel.

Those on the ice could get their meals from many bobhouses and stands set up by everyone from local restaurants to local organizations to individuals wanting to sell food.

Zacky's Pizzeria of Meredith was one of the many businesses that had their own bobhouses out on the ice selling their product. The restaurant was featured in Pizza Today magazine in December and has been trying to get the word out about their food.

"We felt we'd bring the business to them," said owner Dave Eliot.

Eliot and friends got a "Cadillac of bobhouses" with a double sunroof for year round use. They equipped the bobhouse to sell food, including putting in a fryolater and a pizza warmer. Pizzas were delivered from the restaurant to the bobhouse.

An outdoor fireplace and illuminated sign were set up outside to attract attention and create for a cozy environment.

Eliot said the house can be used year round and plans are in the works to set it up at places such as fairs and local events like Fourth of July events in Hesky Park. Eliot said he wants to get more involved in the community and this house is a way to reach out.

The stand first went on the ice for the Pond Hockey Classic and proved to be a success. More customers were coming in during the fishing derby.

"We get to meet people from all over the community," Eliot said.

Annie Verville and Krystle Cilley sold burgers, baked goods, and other ice-friendly fare out of their bright pink bobhouse for Two Chick's Snack Shack. Verville runs Annie's Café and Catering in Laconia and Cilley has served as her intern.

"We came here last year. My boyfriend had chili and it wasn't that good," Cilley said. "I figured I could make better chili."

Verville said she liked the idea, so Cilley's father built the house, customizing it to the specifications of the venture. During the weekend Cilley and Verville sold an array of food popular with anglers.

"We're having fun, (and) we're making a little money," Verville said.

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