For almost three centuries, New Hampshire farm families have taken their cows, their pies and their prized squash to the state’s agricultural fairs.
The aim of the fairs was set out by the first state Board of Agriculture in 1820: “When our farmers see, at these public shows, stock superior to their own; when they hear accounts of extraordinary crops well attended, and see new or improved tools or machines for facilitating their labor, they can no longer doubt. A spirit of emulation rises in their breasts.”
Steve Taylor, commissioner of today’s Dept. of Agriculture, says that all these years later fairs are still an important part of the summer experience in New Hampshire — for farmers and fairgoers alike. A Plainfield resident, Taylor never misses the fair in the next town over, Cornish: “I’ve been going for 55 years.”
There are 11 fairs — the largest in Deerfield, the smallest in Belknap County — that run from July through October (for a schedule of fairs, visit www.nhfairs.com). Each one, Taylor says, has a special charm of its own.
Who could have guessed a wholesome endeavor like an agricultural fair would end in such scandal? It did. Here’s the story.
Two hundred and seventy-five years ago, the pioneer farmers in Londonderry, N.H., started holding fairs twice a year, in May and October. (Those fairs, BTW, were the first ever in the country.)
The October fair was such a hit it became a “statewide mecca for nearly a century,” according to “New Hampshire Fairs, 1722-1970.” But, the account goes on, “this festival finally assumed such scandalous and mulcting dimensions, despite repeated warnings, that the 1850 Legislature repealed [the permission from the state to hold it] and voted it out of existence.”
The account notes that the major attractions at the fair were wrestling and flim flam. “And so,” the account ends, “this first fair in American history went into ignoble oblivion.”
Is this a photograph of a peaceful waterscape or of a somewhat scary face? It depends, quite literally, on how you look at it. The way it’s positioned now, the rocks and greenery are reflected pleasingly in the still water. Turn it 90 degrees to the right and you have a whole other image. Kathy Lowe, a performance artist from New London, discovered a hidden face in this scene and in many others. Her photographs of them are sold through galleries, but Lowe takes it a step further. In what she calls “Petreflections Live” (a word that combines petroglyph and reflection), she brings the faces alive on stage with masks, costumes, drums and song. “What I want the show to convey is that, if we look at life in different ways, we experience magical surprises,” she says. She encourages others to find their own petreflections. Lowe’s also a singer/songwriter; she hosts drum and sound circles; and she offers an interactive musical experience to children, as well as intergenerational programs. For more information visit www.kathylowemusic.com.
Thumbs Up ... on the arrival of an IMAX Theatre in New Hampshire. Finally, the technology that has long resided at educational institutions like science museums is going commercial. The IMAX, part of the Cinemagic Stadium Theatres complex in Hooksett, has the signature curved screen that is 50 feet high. The seats are all close to the screen so you feel you’re in the midst of the action — a dizzying experience at times, but great fun.
Thumbs down... on the growing ill health of young people, the latest evidence being a study by nutrition specialists at UNH. They found approximately a third of undergraduates were overweight and underexercised. Their diets also often lacked important nutrients. One of the researchers warned that, if the trend continues, the students will be much more of a health burden at age 50 than their parents were. One positive in the study — very few students smoke.
Provenance: A N.H. family has had the corner cupboard for at least 90 years. Believed to come from London, England.
Curious about an antique you have? Wonder what the porcelain you inherited from Grandma is worth? Send in a photo and, if it’s selected, we’ll have expert Jason Hackler tell you what it is and appraise it.
This fine piece was made in England during the Edwardian Period from the late 19th- to early 20th-century. The Edwardian period of furniture was a revival of an earlier design style which was much “lighter” in feel and aesthetics than its predecessor, the Victorian Age.
Furniture of the Edwardian period was often decorated with satinwood inlay and painted classical motifs. These graceful inlays and motifs are a recollection of the great late 18th- and early 19th-century furniture designs of Robert Adam, Thomas Sheraton and George Hepplewhite. The styles of these noted furniture-makers were combined into a composition of form and character typical of your cabinet.
Your cupboard is made of mahogany embellished with satinwood inlay depicting classical elements. The upper section features broken arch moldings and a central urn. These elements surmount the glazed doors with central mirrors and a lower cabinet with intricately inlaid doors. This is typical of the Edwardian period and represents a combination of the Edwardian aesthetic tastes of the time combined with previous period design elements.
Overall, this cupboard appears to be in excellent condition. Be sure not to place it next to a heat source where the wood may become too dry. This could cause the inlaid woods and veneers to “pop” and suffer damage. In caring for your piece, I would recommend routine dusting with only a micro-fiber cloth. In addition, the wood will benefit from a very occasional waxing (once a year at most and be careful of wax build-up). When dusting, be on the look out for any loose inlay or veneer. Also, when cleaning the mirror plates, be very careful not to get any wood saturated.
I would estimate your piece for replacement value at $3,500.
—Jason Hackler, manager/owner of New Hampshire Antique Co-op in Milford (www.nhantiquecoop.com) and partner of Jason Samuel Antiques, is a past officer of the Granite State Antique and Appraisers Association, a principal of the Active Appraisal Group and a member of the N.H. Antique Dealers Association.
North Woodstock to Conway
It’s so familiar and loved that it has a nickname — “The Kanc.” Here
are the reasons why so many travel the famous highway again and again.
By Barbara Radcliffe Rogers
The Kancamagus Highway, although scarcely a highway, is not a secret back road. But at least once a year this 42 miles of N.H. wilderness deserves a revisit. Summer is a good time to enjoy all the attractions along the way.
Leave I-93 at Exit 32 and go directly to the White Mountains Attractions Association Visitors Center, located on Rte. 112 at the exit. Here you’ll need to buy a federal pass ($3/day, $5/week) in order to park anywhere along the Kancamagus. It's a kind of federal tax on tourism. The center is a good stop anyway, for information and maps.
Turn right from the visitor center, heading east on Rte. 112 into Lincoln. On your left, Gypsy Café (745-4395) serves an eclectic menu influenced by Latin American and Asian styles. At Loon Mountain Resort and ski area, on the right (2 miles), you can ride the Loon Mountain Gondola to the top to explore the tumble of glacial boulders, some the size of small houses, which form caves and passages that kids love to crawl through.
Return to Rte. 112, which begins serious climbing as it follows the tumbling East Branch River and Hancock Branch past two National Forest camping areas. Just after the tight hairpin turn (about 10 miles), a parking pullout on the right discloses a sweeping view to the west. From this perch high on a ridge you’ll see West Peak, Mount Osceola, East Peak (each over 4,000 feet tall), Loon Mountain and Scar Ridge to the south (left) and Mount Hitchcock and Mount Huntington to the north.
It’s only a few miles farther up to the summit of the Kancamagus Pass, at an elevation of 2,890 feet. Just below, at C.L. Graham Wangan Ground, a picnic pavilion overlooks a new set of views, these of the eastern White Mountains. Picnic here, in the spot where early loggers made their camp.
The drop into the valley of the Swift River is more gentle, without the hairpin curves. After the road levels out, on the right is the half-mile level trail to Sabbaday Falls. This three-tier waterfall splashes into pools and off rock faces and makes a right-angle turn before landing in a dark pool at the bottom.
Russell-Colbath House (open daily summer, weekends Labor Day to Columbus Day), on the right (about 3 miles), is a fully restored 19th-century farmhouse illustrating the lives of early settlers, farmers and loggers. Behind it, the Rail 'n River Forest Trail, a half-mile level walk through the woods, tells more about early life here. Just past this, the road to Bartlett over Bear Notch joins on the left.
Also on the left, at Rocky Gorge (3 miles), the Swift River lives up to its name as it races over a series of water-worn pools in the granite. It’s a popular swimming place, but be careful if the water levels are high or after heavy showers. Another picnic area is at Lower Falls (about 2 miles), also a popular place to cool off in the icy mountain water.
Opposite Blackberry Crossing campground (1/2 mile) the Swift River Covered Bridge, on the left, crosses the river. From this point, although close to the road, the river is mostly hidden by foliage. It’s about 6 miles to the end of Rte. 112, at its intersection with Rte. 16 in Conway.
Length of trip: 42 miles
A Journey Back Baghdad — say the name today and you think of war, chaos, destruction. It’s easy to forget that it was not always so.
Thankfully, “The House of Wisdom,” a book co-authored by Judith Heide Gilliland of Amherst and her mother Florence Parry Heide, can transport us back a thousand years to a time when Baghdad was “a great city, the prince of all cities.”
Not only were there material goods beyond imagining — porcelain and silks, gold and diamonds, perfumes and brocades — there was a place in Baghdad where the writings of the world’s great thinkers were stored, in a great library called the House of Wisdom.
Baghdad was then at the center of the cultural and economic universe. As the book says: “Like a silent voice calling, like an invisible thread pulling, it gathered to itself all that the world had to offer.”
The book [DK Publishing, available at amazon.com] — beautifully written and lushly illustrated by Mary Grandpré, the illustrator for the Harry Potter series — tells the tale of real characters from the A.D. 800s, Caliph al-Ma’mun, book translator Hunayn and his son Ishaq, and of their love and pursuit of knowledge. It’s written for children, but adults are just as likely to enjoy it, especially in these times.
For nearly two decades, against a dark August sky at the Jaffrey Airport, the residents of surrounding communities and thousands of others from all over New England have watched the Festival of Fireworks put on by the Jaffrey-based Atlas PyroVision Productions.
This year — the 18th annual on Saturday, August 18 — features the blending of the classic music of performers from the ’60s and ’70s — Bay City Rollers, Cat Stevens, Eagles, John Lennon and Three Dog Night among them — with an amazing pyrotechnic experience. Company President/Artistic Director Stephen Pelkey says the show turns Flower Power into Pyro Power.
Aside from being an unforgettable experience, it’s a fundraiser for the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce to fund cultural and community betterment projects. For ticket information call the Chamber at (603) 532-4549 (apologies to Atlas for a wrong number last month and also to the poor person whose number it was) or visit www.atlaspyro.com.
Street Smarts [ A quickie guide to Main Street Henniker ]
Get a dose of small town charm and great shopping in Henniker.
Walk into New Hampshire All Natural (www.nhallnatural.com) and you’ll probably be greeted by the fresh smells of owner Marcy Mikutowicz’s latest invention cooking up behind the counter. Mikutowicz makes and sells everything from all natural pet care products, such as shampoo, to vanilla and lavender linen sprays for the humans. The store at 20 Main St. is packed with natural cleaning, beauty and baby supplies as well. Mikutowicz also refurbishes local furniture available in the store or out on the fabulous deck overlooking the Contoocook River.
It’s easy to spend the afternoon at this shop at 30 Main St. Located just above Daniel’s Restaurant, the cozy store has everything from clothing to gourmet foods. Whether you’re looking to treat yourself with jewelry or trying to find the perfect present for the person who has it all, Upstairs at Daniel’s won’t disappoint. Take the time to look through all the shelves and in every nook and cranny and you’re sure to find exactly what you need. (428-7621)
Don’t let the name fool you — Mandi’s eats and sweets is more than just a place to satisfy a sweet tooth. The menu at Mandi’s is packed with sandwiches, salads and other munchies. Come in to the restaurant on 15 Rush St. at lunchtime and you’re sure to find a crowd of regulars and a busy staff filling takeout orders. Of course, as the name implies, the candy case is filled with tantalizing truffles, turtles and other extremely tempting desserts. There’s plenty of room to take a seat and relax after a day of shopping. (428-8031)
The Henniker Pharmacy (www.hennikerpharmacy.com) embodies the timeless, small New Hampshire town feeling of Henniker. Built in 1889, the pharmacy is a local hub with the atmosphere of an old fashioned general store. Inside, the huge counters are made of dark, well-worn wood and outside, hand-painted signs advertise goods. Walking in through the large wooden doors is like taking a step back in time. Don’t miss the “friendly pharmacy” located in Proctor Square.
Whether you’re a seasoned quilter or just beginning to learn the ins and outs of sewing, Quilted Threads on 116 Main St. (named “Best of NH” in 2005) is packed with supplies and inspiration. From thread to a huge range of fabric, this small but thorough store has it all, including classes. If you’re looking for new ideas, solutions or just some general information the friendly and knowledgeable staff are on hand to help. Be sure to check out www.quiltedthreads.com for a class schedule.
Leave the center of Henniker to visit a beautiful and impressive greenhouse. STONEFALLS GARDENS, at 4 Centervale Rd., is really three greenhouses, display gardens and rows and rows of trees for sale. Before buying plants, walk the gardens to see how your choices will fare in New Hampshire. If you want to treat your nose and tastebuds, tour the herb house bursting with everything from basil to sage and more. If you’re looking to decorate, don’t miss the garden shop. www.stonefallsgardens.com.
Nine Days in August
It’s a veritable feast of antiques when Antiques Week comes around in New Hampshire each year. This year, from August 3-11, antique dealers and customers from all over the country will be set up in Manchester, Bedford and Deerfield, offering American furniture and folk art, paintings, decorative accessories, ephemera and more from the last three centuries. There’s a lot going on and it’s a little confusing, so here’s the schedule. Check the Web sites for times and admission.
Aug. 3-5: Northeast Auctions at the Radisson Hotel/Center of N.H. in Manchester (northeastauctions.com)
Aug. 6: The Bedford Pickers Market Antiques Show, Quality Inn & Wayfarer Convention Center, Bedford (barnstar.com)
Aug. 7: Americana Celebration Antique Show, Deerfield Fairgrounds (nangurley.com)
Aug. 7 & 8: Start of Manchester Antiques Show, The Event Center at C.R. Sparks in Bedford (flamingoshows.com)
Aug. 8 & 9: Mid-Week in Manchester Antique Show, Quality Inn & Wayfarer Convention Center, Bedford (barnstar.com)
Aug. 9: The Granite State Antiquarian Book & Ephemera Fair, The Event Center at C.R. Sparks in Bedford (flamingoshows.com)
Aug. 9-11: 50th Annual New Hampshire Antiques Show, Radisson Hotel/Center of N.H., Manchester (nhada.org)
If you get out of breath just driving up Mt. Washington, imagine racing up the granddaddy of New Hampshire mountains on your bicycle. Joe Dambach of Hooksett did it. The 36-year-old national account manager competed in the “Newton’s Revenge” race last summer and came in in the middle of the pack. And, while he was training for the race on Mt. Kearsarge in Warner, he had an experience that showed him just how fast he could pedal.
You encountered a mountain lion?I was riding alone when I saw something walking in the road up ahead. It was a very large cat, with uniform tan-brown color and a long tail. The mountain lion, fortunately, hadn’t seen or heard me. But I figured, if I got too close, he might turn around and attack. If he did, I’d be defenseless because my feet were locked into the pedals.What did you do?I yelled, a deep roaring AHHH, to spook him. You yelled at a mountain lion?Yeah. He jumped and ran off into the woods, so I kept pedaling up the mountain.Weren’t you afraid he’d track you and attack you from behind, as mountain lions are wont to do?No, I think the chances of him attacking me were slim. I did look over my shoulder from time to time, just in case. It was such a rare encounter.Don’t you have any fear genes?Yeah, I get fearful, but it’s a matter of controlling and managing it. After that experience, was the race up Mt. Washington anti-climactic?No, it was a different kind of thrill. The race itself was difficult, but it was the practice ride a month earlier that was extreme. The temperature was 34 degrees at the summit with dense fog. The winds above the tree line were 60 mph with gusts up to 76 mph. I actually got blown over once, literally knocked to the ground. And it was raining sideways. It was a struggle to get up the 12 percent grade in those conditions.You’ve also done sky-diving and bungee-jumping. What drives you?I like to challenge myself. It’s rewarding when you set an ambitious goal and work to achieve it. The sense of accomplishment is motivating.New Hampshire Stuff
Jammin’ in N.H.
Our staff compared five N.H.-made jams from around the state. Here’s what they thought.
Stretch Jams and Jellies
One staff member said this is “a real jelly with a real jar.” This jelly has large chunks of strawberry, a reusable canning jar and a sweet, fresh taste. If you like your jams and jellies on the tart side, this is not the one for you. Another staff member declared this jelly “classic.”
Bee Tree Farm
This jam walks the line perfectly - not too sweet and not too tart. Most staff members noticed a nice consistency that is easy to spread but still has some pieces of fruit. Like the Stretch strawberry jelly, this is a classic topping for your toast.
506 Old Chesterfield Rd.
All the staff members who tried this jam loved the whole blueberries. One staff member commented that it would be wonderful with muffins for breakfast and another thought it would be delicious drizzled over ice cream.
319 Vaughan St.
Shawn Michael’s Homemade
This, said staff members, is the most unusual jam out of the five. For those who like jams a little on the tart side with a sweet aftertaste, this is it. One staff member said, “the cranberry adds a tart flavor that offsets the sugar necessary in jam.”
30 Farrell Loop
This jam, which one staff member thought was actually closer to a jelly, has a great fruity flavor without the chunks of strawberry. While it has a nice strawberry flavor, the Apple Hill jam is by far the sweetest.
580 Mountain Rd.
This article appears in the August 2007 issue of New Hampshire Magazine