Masters of Fire

Fireworks have been used for celebrations a very long time — 2,000 years to be exact. But just imagine if the ancient inventors of fireworks (whether it was the Chinese or Spanish is a matter of dispute) could see a fireworks display today, especially a particularly spectacular one that takes place in New Hampshire each year. It even amazes the carloads of modern-day people who crowd the Jaffrey Airport to watch.

Atlas PyroVision Productions, which puts on the show (and hundreds of others around the world), has won international awards for its work choreographing the fireworks with the music. Company President Stephen Pelkey says computers now make it possible to match the beat of the music to the fireworks to within 1/100 of a second. “We use a database of 3,500 different fireworks, with different colors, patterns and durations for the display,” he says. Once selected, they then determine the direction, angle and attitude of the fireworks. These days, it’s possible to make all sorts of shapes — letters, hearts, five-pointed stars and peace signs, to name just a few. New technology has also meant new colors — orange, chartreuse, lemon, aqua, pink, magenta and more. “There’s no color you can’t make with the new chemicals,” says Pelkey.

What’s the next new thing? Pelkey says it is launching systems that use compressed air rather than black powder. That will mean little to no noise when the fireworks are pushed into the air — and a little less of the familiar smell of black powder.

Celebrating the 4th
You can see the chrysanthemum, the waterfall, the crackle and more at Atlas
fireworks displays at many locations around New Hampshire.

6/30 Hampstead, 9:30 p.m.
7/1 Hancock, 9:30 p.m.
7/3 Alton, 9:20 p.m.
7/3 Ashland, 9:30 p.m.
7/3 Keene, 9:15 p.m.
7/3 Manchester, dusk
7/3 Portsmouth, 9:15 p.m.
7/4 Meredith, 9 p.m.
7/4 Milford, 9:30 p.m.
7/4 North Conway, 9:30 p.m.
7/4 Peterborough, dusk
7/4 Salem, 9:30
7/4 Waterville Valley, 9:30 p.m.
7/4 Wolfeboro, dusk
7/7 Weare, 9:30 p.m.
7/14 Hillsborough, 10 p.m.
8/11 Alton, 9:20 p.m.
8/18 Jaffrey 9 p.m.
10/20 Keene, 8:30 p.m.

The grandest of fireworks displays (it was selected as a Best of NH Editor’s Pick) can be found in Jaffrey on August 18 at the 17th annual Jaffrey Festival of Fireworks. Take a carload of family and friends ($40 for general admission, $150 for VIP), sit back and enjoy the show. For more information visit or call (603) 532-4349.

Her Own Path

She tried hard not to be an artist. It’s not an easy life, she says. But despite her misgivings today Ana Aponovich, just out of college, is an artist.

Perhaps it was a matter of DNA triumphing over all. Ana’s father is the renowned artist James Aponovich; her mother Elizabeth Johansson is an accomplished artist as well.

“My talent drew me in its own direction,” she says. “I had to stop pushing it away.” She chose a medium that was different from her parents’: James works in oil, Beth works mostly in pastel, Ana in watercolor. Her style is different, too, though she says it contains “bits and pieces of her parents’.”

Ana’s work tends more toward impressionism: “I paint what I see, but not picture perfect.” Studying graphic arts in college (she’s now working as a graphic artist at a Bedford engineering firm) has influenced her work, as have her classes with N.H. Institute of Arts instructor Kevin Dadoly. “I’ve taken his class three times,” she says.
Do her parents give her advice? “They do once in a while,” she says. “If I’m drawing a vase or have a problem with perspective, they help me, but mostly they tend to let me paint as I please. I follow my own path.”

But her path does take her back home from time to time, to the beautiful Italianate garden her parents lovingly tend. Like them, she uses its flowers as her subjects. “I get inspiration there,” she says.

She wants the people who see her paintings to be inspired, too: “I want to catch their eye, stop them in their tracks and have them embrace the feeling I have when I paint. It’s fun. I have fun doing it.”

Street Smarts [ A quickie guide to Main Street New London]

New London’s quaint main drag is long and packed with unique shops.

At vessels & jewels on 207 Main St., if you can’t find what you were looking for, you’ll surely find something you weren’t. The gallery consists of unique hand crafted art (pottery, jewelry, glass, metals, fiber and more) by artists from New Hampshire, New England and across the United States. The beautiful gallery space is accompanied by an eclectic bead shop filled with an array of beads and beading components. (

Step into Arctic Dreams at 394 Main Street across from the town green and be prepared to explore a maze of delightful possibilities. It’s Annabelle’s ice cream, so everything is delicious, but planning just the right arrangement of flavors for your triple scoop cone can take some time. Not ready for dessert? Pizza Chef, right next door, is a local hangout and a trusty source of excellent pizzas, salads and sandwiches. (526-9477)

The natural world is full of artistry, but translating that to objects of art that you can use and display in your home takes a special eye and a sensitive touch. Mauli McDonald, who operates Art of Nature at 256 Main Street, has both. Antlers, turtle shells, feathers, most collected by her during walks in the woods, are transformed into baskets, lamps, wreaths, hats and other configurations. She has won awards for her dried arrangements. The shop must be experienced. (

Knit new london at 428 Main St. is a tiny place but every square inch is packed with the colorful tools of the knitters’ trade. The owner, a former nurse, loves to share the secrets of the art and to spread the word about knitting’s practical, aesthetic and therapeutic benefits. Classes on knitting, crocheting and even rug hooking are offered. For those who don’t need a full class, tutoring services to solve knitting problems are available for $10 per half hour. (

It’s not just the store with the biggest collection of Tomie dePaola books (children’s artist and author dePaola lives in town), many autographed, it’s also bright and friendly, just like the author. And he drops in from time to time, so keep your eyes open. Morgan Hill Books at 253 Main Street has a wide selection of works by local authors, well chosen titles on special themes and still keeps up with the current best sellers. Lots of children’s books, too. (526-5850)

At Peter Christian’s Tavern on 195 Main Street, you’ll sometimes have to wait to get a seat for their splendid food and drink, but have no fear, the Artisan’s Workshop is an excellent place to spend some time and some dollars while your table is being prepared. They recently redecorated and began to carry some handcrafted couture along with the extensive lines of jewelry, art, photography and other gift items. Many local artisans are represented. (526-4227)

Book Shelf

Past and Present
Did you know that geologists believe that Portsmouth and its environs were once part of the African continent? That there is more Georgian-era architecture in Portsmouth than in most cities in the country? That 140 slaves lived in the city in the 1770s?

Historical tidbits like that, written by Laura Pope, make “Portsmouth” [Commonwealth Editions, $14.95] a meaty accompaniment to photographer Nancy Horton’s visual tour of the Port City, with all its busyness and beauty (the sunset over the salt piles is just one of several stunning photos).

Horton, whose work has been in The New York Times, Boston Globe, Yankee magazine and Rolling Stone, set out to capture everyday life in Market Square, outside the stately and historic homes in the city and in the gritty areas along the Piscataqua River and the Atlantic Ocean.

“Portsmouth” is the seventh book in Commonwealth Editions’ “New England Landmarks” series. If you live on the Seacoast — or just love Portsmouth — pick up this tribute to a city that’s long on both history and charm.

Fitzwilliam to Charlestown Rhododendrons bloom in one of N.H.’s least-known state parks at the beginning of a drive through the state’s hilly southwest corner. By Barbara Radcliffe Rogers

Leave Fitzwilliam’s classic village green heading south on Route 119; signs mark the right-hand turn to Rhododendron State Park, at its height of bloom in mid-July. Even though this is not expected to be a heavy bloom year, the half-mile trail through New England’s largest grove of rhododendrons is well worth walking, and a short climb to the open ledges brings sweeping views north to Mount Monadnock. A succession of wildflowers blooms all summer at the edges of the grove.

Return to Route 119 and follow it to Richmond’s Four Corners (7 miles), easily identified by the 4-Corner Store, a good stop for a fresh-made deli sandwich and a cheerful greeting.

Turn right onto Route 32 and head north into Swanzey. After passing the turn-off to Swanzey Lake, watch for Carleton Road, on the right (about 6 miles) where a short side-trip takes you to the 1869 Carleton Covered Bridge. About a mile beyond, where Route 32 turns to the right at Monadnock Regional High School, continue straight ahead, bearing right at the fork onto Sawyers Crossing Road, which leads through the1859 Cresson Covered Bridge. Beside the bridge is a canoe/kayak put-in that gives paddlers access to a long stretch of the tree-lined Ashuelot River.

Turn right onto Matthews Road, which crosses and re-crosses the paralleling bike trail before ending at Route 10 (2 miles). Turn right, heading into Keene on Winchester Street, which ends at its intersection with Main Street.

Turn left onto one of the widest main streets in America, well worth a stop for coffee at Prime Roast, lunch at Salmon Chase Bistro or shopping at Hannah Grimes Marketplace, all on the right-hand side of Main Street.

Go left around the head of leafy Central Square, turning right onto Court Street, at the imposing brick Court House. Continue for about 3 miles, past fine Victorian homes and the double-arched stone bridge on your right, to the intersection, where you bear right onto West Surry Road, which is Route 12-A.

A side trip at about 1.5 miles takes you to the top of Surry Mountain Dam, and another about 1.5 miles beyond leads to the Surry Mountain Recreation Area, with a public beach and picnic tables. Route 12-A continues north past Surry Village and valley farms, before climbing along the edge of a steep ravine. At the top is the long ridge of Alstead Center, with fine vintage farmhouses, rows of maples and sweeping views to Vermont’s hills.

Drop (literally) into Alstead, where the devastation of the 2006 floods is still very evident along the river. At the impressive neoclassical Shedd Memorial Library, Route 12-A makes a dog-leg turn and climbs out of the village.

Turn left at the Y (about 2 miles from Alstead), then right, still following the 12-A signs, traveling alongside a pretty little brook before crossing over, then joining, Route 12.

Turn left onto Route 12 and along the flat Connecticut River Valley into Charlestown. A detour left at Lower Landing Road leads to a riverside park, just before Route 12 becomes Charlestown’s Main Street, lined by fine homes and a brick church, library and bank, all from the early 19th century.

Plan Ahead:

Q & A

Kevin Donahue, 23, has been lifeguarding at Hampton Beach for the past nine years, but that’s peanuts compared to his father Jim, who’s been at it since 1959. For the Donahues, lifeguarding is a family affair; over the years, seven of them have spent summers at state beaches ready to handle trouble. When the rescue is made or the cut foot bandaged, Kevin says the rewards are great. Plus, he adds, what’s not to like about being outside on the beach all day?

What’s the most challenging situation a lifeguard faces?
I’d say making a rescue in storm surf. Once in a while, a hurricane goes out to sea and the weather is fine here, but the waves are massive and people sometimes don’t understand how powerful they can be.

Do you do a lot of rescues?
A couple of years ago, we had 50 rescues in one day because we had rip currents open up on us, and it was amazing.

Is it true that you can swim out of a rip current if you go parallel to the beach?
Yes, it’s almost like there are sand bars on either side of the hole that causes the rip current. But people panic and all they see is the shore so they swim toward it. It’s the worst thing they can do.

Do you worry about tsunamis?
No, we’re not expecting one. Hopefully, we’ll never see one. The highest wave I’ve seen is 10-15 feet.

Did you see the movie “Jaws”?
I try not to think about “Jaws” too much, especially when I’m doing long swims. My father saw the movie back in 1975 and it scared him so good he had to stop at the beach and swim to overcome his terror.

Are there sharks here? What kind of dangerous creatures do we have?
A stray shark might cruise by, but they’re basking sharks, not meat-eaters. There hasn’t been a shark attack north of Boston ever recorded. The most dangerous creature here is the bluefish.

Yeah, if you swim into a school of mackerel while the bluefish are feeding on them, you might get cut up because they think you’re part of the school.

Do lifeguards still get the girl?
In this day and age, there are just as many girl lifeguards as guys. If a girl approaches and says here’s my phone number, fine, but you can’t stay and talk. You have to be attentive and alert.

How much do lifeguards make?
This year it’s $9.56 an hour, but ask any lifeguard and they’ll tell you it’s not about the pay.

Tresure Hunt

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.

Thank you for sending me images of your set of 19th-century pewter. Pewter is an alloy of tin with added elements such as lead, copper, antimony and bismuth. Nicknamed “poor man’s silver,” pewter was often shined to emulate its more expensive counterpart. Pewter vessels were typically practical and utilitarian, with only minor ornamentation.

You have probably heard many different names for your set: graduated tankards, flagons or cans. However, the true definition for what you have is measures. Primarily used in England and Europe, measures follow the metric system and were made to ale and wine standards. They were produced both with and without lids. Some were fitted with spouts to enable easy pouring.

The photograph of the markings is not very clear, but your measures bear a mark similar to Boardman and Hall of Philadelphia from the mid-19th century. However, the markings are perhaps not by this company as the form and mark are not typical. I would need further inspection. The set appears to be Continental (European) and may have been stamped for export. Your measures have a nice old patina — do not polish! I would value this set of measures at $550.

—Jason Hackler, manager/owner of New Hampshire Antique Co-op in Milford ( 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, a member of the N.H. Antique Dealers Association and a licensed auctioneer.

If you have an antique you would like Jason to appraise for Treasure Hunt, please send a hi-res photo to If there are markings, please take a clear photo of them as well. Only one item a month can be featured.

Cool Brews! In a blind taste test, our staff compared six N.H.-made beers from around the state. Here’s what they thought.

Elm City Brewing Company — IPA
At Elm City Brewing Company the lightest beer they had on tap close to testing day was the IPA. To take home your favorite, just ask the bartender to fill up a growler. If you’re looking for a lighter beer that still has body, this is the brew for you. The IPA is a touch heavier than the Shoals Pale Ale by Smuttynose.
222 West St.
Colony Mill Marketplace
(603) 355-3335

Woodstock Inn Station and Brewery — Pemi Pale Ale
One staff member says this ale has a “curly taper to a mellow afterglow.” Starting out with a strong first taste, the Pemi Pale Ale quickly turns softer and, as another staff member says, a little “woodsy.”
Route 3, Main St.
North Woodstock

Green Valley Brewing — Stone Mill Organic Pale Ale
This organic pale ale is put out by Anheuser-Busch. Along with the Elm City IPA, this falls into a heavier and stronger category. One staff member says it has “a nice combination of paleness with a touch of a good bitter flavor.”
Anheuser-Busch Brewery
221 Daniel Webster Hwy.
(603) 595-1202

Tuckerman Brewing Company — Pale Ale
The Tuckerman version of a pale ale was the second favorite among staff members. If you like a very light, almost fruity pale ale this is for you. It goes down smooth and easy with just enough flavor to keep it interesting.
64 Hobbs St.
(603) 447-5400

Smuttynose — Shoals Pale Ale
The Shoals Pale Ale has some kick. According to Smuttynose, this is its interpretation of a traditional English-style beer. Copper-colored, the Shoals is a little tangy with a good-sized bite. Like the Elm City IPA, this is a beer for those who are partial to big taste.
225 Heritage Avenue
(603) 436-4026

Redhook Blonde Ale
This was the unanimous staff favorite. One staff member describes it as having “even and robust tones with a pleasant arc from tongue tip to throat.” Close to a light beer but with much more flavor, the Redhook Blonde is a great pale ale.
35 Corporate Drive
Pease Int’l. Tradeport
(603) 430-8600

Snap Judgment

Thumbs up… for author Dan Brown and his wife Blythe’s gift of $1M to help create the Squamscott Community Commons in Exeter. The 80,000-square-foot nonprofit center will house a YMCA and local service agencies, like a community food pantry and a children’s center. Brown, of “The DaVinci Code” fame, grew up in Exeter, graduated from Phillips Exeter and currently lives in Rye. He and his wife follow in the footsteps of other wealthy couples who use their fortunes for the good of the community.

Thumbs Down… on the fact that instances of Lyme disease have more than doubled in the past two years in the state. If left untreated, Lyme disease — which is spread by deer ticks — can cause serious complications, including meningitis and heart abnormalities. A recent study found the number of infected ticks was much higher than expected; in Concord, for instance, more than 70 percent of ticks were infected. The good news — Lyme disease is preventable by watching for ticks and getting early treatment if you’re bitten.

Hit the Beach

There are lots of ways to keep cool — and be cool — when the sun and sand beckon on a summer’s day. Check out these items (yes, ukeleles are back) from Cinnamon Rainbows Surf Co. ( at Hampton Beach. They have way more than just surfer-dude stuff (we picked them as a “Best of NH” in this issue).

Fox Girls kickback beach chair, $30
Fox Girls cooler, $40
Billabong polka dot bikini, $68
Ukelele, $29.99
Wave Rebel bodyboard, $29.99
Roxy reversible beach bag, $38
Yellow Crocs, $29.99; $24.99 for children
Kaufman 100 percent cotton beach towel, $15