There has been an outpouring of concern for the direction and future of Laconia Motorcycle Week since I spoke in opposition to new bike week vendor fees at a recent workshop of Meredith selectmen.
What has struck me is how much this dialogue, long simmering below the surface, has needed to come to the forefront and be discussed. The facts speak for themselves — attendance is down, traffic is down, and interest is down. We must make major changes to reverse the negative trend of Laconia Motorcycle Week. This will require broader state and regional discussion on the rally in order to determine how best to go forward. The approach of the past 25+ years is no longer working. The handwriting is on the wall — If we don't change, the rally will continue to decline and may disappear.
Laconia Mayor Engler provided some eye-opening data that unfortunately was not a surprise to those closest to the rally. The total average daily traffic volume during the nine days was only 117,208 vehicles, a 25 percent decrease from the previous year. It was a verification of what we have all felt in recent years. Let's use this new number as our baseline for going forward and planning.
Laconia Motorcycle Week is extremely important to my business as it is for so many others in the region. That's why we must take action in order to restore this once-fabled rally.
My suggestion is to implement a Five Point Plan to revive Motorcycle Week
1. Create a vision for the rally. Currently there is no coherent brand for Motorcycle Week. We need to determine if it should be broader welcoming all motorcyclists including sport bikes or if we should expand it even further into a regional festival with an adult flare. We need a sense of what the rally should be about.
2. Develop a plan for stabilizing the rally — and rebuilding it to whatever level we believe is realistic and achievable with the resources the state, region and business are prepared to commit. This plan could include but is not limited to the following:
— Agree on permanent date of the rally. The fluctuating dates are confusing and hurt attendance. The Americade Motorcycle Rally in Lake George, NY often conflicts with our dates and decimates attendance because it draws important New York and Connecticut riders who also attend Bike Week. We could consider working with Americade to eliminate the conflicting dates.
— Take a hard look at rally activities. Laconia Motorcycle Week has grown to be a statewide event with numerous activities in every corner of New Hampshire. While we want the entire state to benefit, a thorough evaluation of activities must occur. Let's examine the strengths and weaknesses of each event, determine which should be dropped and brainstorm new events that will support the community and business.
— Engage the experts. We should secure a respected advertising agency and a communications firm from New Hampshire with proven track records for driving tourism to our state that has competencies in today's effective marketing. We need a cohesive marketing and communications plan, budget and executional strategy to drive riders to our state. Keep in mind, Motorcycle week also drives motorcycle tourism for the entire summer season.
— Develop a master calendar of events. Currently there are so many events that our consumers or confused on where to go and when to go there. Rather than compete with each other, let's work collectively so visitors have signature events to participate in between rides.
Once we have a plan:
3. Engage the state and request a strong commitment. Even with shrinking attendance, an event drawing 117,000 tourists is one of the state's largest events by far. We all need to protect and grow this asset — and that includes the state, which should provide financial and in-kind support.
4. Communicate our vision to local town officials. With declining attendance, towns that rely on fees collected from Bike Week need to more accurately assess the needs and expenses they believe are associated to the rally and correctly forecast for annual budgeting purposes.
5. Give the Rally News magazine to Charlie St. Clair. Bike Week is woven into the fabric of our community and no one has been a bigger champion than Charlie. He has worked long and hard on that publication, and believes in it. However, state funding for marketing should not be put towards the publication — not when there are so many other new and effective marketing tactics at our disposal. Sales of ad space should support the publication. Sponsors for the magazine should not be given sponsorship to Motorcycle Week. That should be separate and be handled under the auspices of perhaps an advertising agency.
Laconia Motorcycle Week is at a crossroads. Will we sit idly by and watch this iconic event wither away before our eyes? Or will state and local officials hear the plea of local businesses and take action? Before you know it, Laconia Motorcycle Week will be here. There is time to make some changes to 2016 and we should, but 2017 should be our goal for a totally revamped rally. This should start with a new statewide Laconia Motorcycle Week council conveyed and appointed by state officials to address the points above. I'll be the first to join and I hope others will consider as well.
(Anne Deli is co-owner and president of Laconia Harley-Davidson)
Last Updated on Friday, 28 August 2015 10:21
By Mary O'Neill
Sales Associate at Roche Realty Group
Gunstock Ski and Recreational Area is not your typical New Hampshire ski area. There is something special about it. Initially, you might not be able to put your finger on what makes it so while you are caught in the flurry of its exciting four-season activities. But if you will look past the state-of-art facility and great events, you will see how the old title for New Hampshire as the "Switzerland of America" suits Gunstock perfectly. That's what makes it special.
When you think of Switzerland, an idyllic picture of lakes and mountains fills your mind. One trip up Gunstock's summit chairlift, summer or winter, offers an exceptional alternate that is unbeatable. Everywhere you look, lakes and mountains surround you. Alton Bay sweeps into the broads of Lake Winnipesaukee. The bays at Meredith, Wolfeboro, Moultonborough, and Center Harbor jut into the Ossipee Mountains and the foothills of the White Mountains. Smaller lakes are scattered about the 360-degree panorama including Squam, Wicwas, and Waukewan. To the east, Winnipesaukee narrows to the Weirs and into Paugus Bay. Here Lake Opechee and Lake Winnisquam dominate the vista. To the north, Mount Washington and the White Mountains can be seen rising grandly. All and all, Gunstock's view is as Swiss-like as it gets.
But there is something more about Gunstock that gives you that lighthearted feeling that you have happened on a little bit of a European vacation. Two hours earlier you may have been in the center of Boston, but as you near Gunstock you begin to pass little chalets along the road including those that are part of the 1960's development called Chalet Village. When you reach the main parking of the ski area, you are confronted with a massive ski lodge built in the 1930's with a distinctive Swiss flair. The wood and stone structure houses a great room lit by wagon wheel chandeliers with vaulted ceilings, mammoth stone fireplace and hearth, and a perimeter wooden balcony. The sight alone will cause a relaxing feeling to flow over you. It's that feeling you get when you arrive at a resort in the middle of the Alps, knowing you are far removed from the stresses of work and life in general. Even if you must eventually make the trip back to the city, right now you are in an alpine paradise.
Gunstock's history is distinct from all the other ski facilities in New Hampshire. It is the only county owned ski area in New Hampshire. Built in the 1930s, it was a post-Depression WPA project. Hundreds of unemployed men were hired to construct the main lodge and auxiliary buildings, as well as the first single chairlift in the East, rope tows, cross country trails, camping facilities, and hiking trails. A 60-meter ski jump was finished in the mid-1930s and put the ski area (called Belknap Ski Area at the time) on the map with championship meets attracting national and international ski jumping stars. In 1960, a local skier propelled the ski area into greater national attention. Penny Pitou, who trained at Gunstock, won 2 silver medals at the 1960 Winter Olympics. After the Olympics, Penny returned to Gilford and married fellow Olympian Egon Zimmermann, gold medalist at the 1964 Olympics in the downhill. Penny and Egon started the Penny Pitou Ski School at Gunstock during the 1960s and brought in a number of Austrians as ski instructors, adding to the European atmosphere at Gunstock.
Gunstock's long skiing history means it also has a host of local characters that still grace its slopes. If you are lucky, you might meet one. These are not Swiss folks, but hardy old Yankees who are just as independent and colorful. Many are still skiing or hiking in their 70s and 80s. These locals may clue you in as to where the best patch of wild blueberries can be found in the summer or maybe direct you to the slope with the most favorable afternoon snow in the winter. They'll have stories to share as to the old-timer reputed to hold the record for consecutive ski days and other important matters in the world of Gunstock. Just like in Switzerland, for many growing up in the Lakes Region, skiing and hiking at Gunstock is a way of life.
The present day Gunstock hosts the old but also the best of the new. Their ZipTour Zip Line was awarded Best Of New Hampshire 2015. There are over 1.6 miles of lines, making Gunstock's one of the longest in the continental U.S. You can reach speeds of up to 70 miles per hour as you zip along from the summit. Gunstock's Arial Treetop Adventure is New England's largest aerial obstacle course. There are 91 different challenges within 8 distinct courses. Gunstock has just received approval to add a $2.6 million dollar Alpine Coaster ride. Other activities include Segway tours on the cross-country trails, stand-up-paddle boarding on the resort pond, walking along the wetlands boardwalk, hiking the numerous trails, fishing, mountain biking, camping, and, of course, premier skiing and snowboarding. Gunstock has also recently expanded its Nordic center.
Gunstock hosts many special events such as the annual Soulfest (which draws more than 13,000 people a day), the Timberman Triathlon Festival, horse drawn wagon rides, craft fairs, wine and beer tasting, Halloween-themed events, car shows, and the upcoming Public Safety Day. The Landing Zone restaurant is situated on a new 3,000 square foot patio at the end of the main lodge and offers something for everyone. The area is a popular venue for weddings. It also hosts proms and the Miss Winnipesaukee and Miss Weirs Beach pageant.
Today Gunstock is the 3rd largest by skier visits in New Hampshire. Its summit elevation is 2,300 feet. There are 227 skiable acres and 90 percent of the mountain is covered by state-of-the-art snowmaking. The eight lifts offer an uphill capacity of 12,400 skiers per hour. Greg Goddard has performed an outstanding job as general manager. He has tremendous respect from all his employees, and he and his team have exceeded expectations in expanding Gunstock into a true four-season vacation mecca.
Come take advantage of all the activities at Gunstock. While you're there, let your mind peacefully slip into that "I'm away-from-it-all" attitude that an extended trip to the Swiss Alps would provide. One thing is for sure. New Hampshire may not have received its well-deserved title as the Switzerland of America because of Gunstock. But for almost eighty years Gunstock surely has contributed to making the title true.
1937: first season at newly-constructed Gunstock
1941: Torger Tokle set the hill record on Gunstock's 60-meter jump
1954: Belknap's first T-Bar installed
1960: Gunstock skier Penny Pitou wins 2 silver metals at the Winter Olympics
1970s-2000s: constant improvement in infrastructure and snowmaking technology
2011: Aerial TreeTop Adventures, ZipTour, and off-road Segway tours open
2015: Gunstock receives approval to add $2.6 million dollar Alpine coaster
Please feel free to visit www.rocherealty.com to learn more about the Lakes Region and its real estate market. Mary O'Neill is a sales associate at Roche Realty Group in Meredith & Laconia, and can be reached at (603) 366-6306. rocherealty.com
Last Updated on Friday, 28 August 2015 07:28
While perhaps too early for Democratic elites to panic and begin bailing out on Hillary Clinton's campaign as a doomed vessel, they would be well advised not to miss any of the lifeboat drills. For Hillary's campaign is taking on water at a rate that will sink her, if the leakage does not stop, and soon.
Initially, the issue of Hillary and the e-mails she sent and received as secretary of state seemed too wonkish, too complex, too trivial a matter to sink a candidacy as strong as hers.
Her nomination was considered as assured as any since Vice President Richard Nixon ran unopposed in 1960.
But since it was revealed that as secretary of state she used a private server for her e-mails, located in her home in Chappaqua, the bleeding of public trust has been unabated.
Her tortured explanation as to why she installed her own server only raised suspicions. Her erasure of 30,000 "personal e-mails," her initial refusal to turn her server over to State, her denials she ever received confidential information, her wiping of the server clean, her stonewalling, have all ravaged her reputation for truthfulness. And truthfulness was never Bill or Hillary's long suit.
And the issue of Clintonian entitlement and privilege has arisen again.
For Hillary showed a casualness in handling the nation's secrets that would have cost a civil servant at State, Defense or CIA his or her security clearance and job. And they would be facing charges and potentially jail time.
Indeed, now that Justice and the FBI have been called in to look at Hillary's handling of state secrets, it is not impossible that at the end of this road lies a federal indictment. Should that happen, her campaign and career would be over. And should that indictment come later rather than sooner, the Democratic Party could be headed into the election of 2016 led by a Brooklyn-born septuagenarian socialist.
Every day that new revelations come about Hillary and her e-mails, and every week that passes between now and when the filing deadlines for the primaries begin to fall, this becomes a real possibility.
Again, the problem here for Hillary and the Democratic Party is that the investigators at Justice, the FBI, and in a hostile Congress and the media, are far from wrapping this up. They all have their teeth in it, and they are not going away. And there is nothing Hillary can do to halt the investigations, or plug the leaks, or, it seems, to change the subject.
What, really, is the relevance of her $350 billion plan to get the super-rich to pay off student loans, if Hillary is being lawyered up?
The Democratic Party is approaching the fail-safe point. If it appears that Hillary is headed for the knacker's yard, then to whom do the Democratic elites turn, and, equally important, when do they move? For they cannot wait too long.
Hence, a "Draft Biden" movement has begun, and veterans of President Obama's campaigns are signing on.
Yet the vice president should think long and hard about whether and when he plunges into the Democratic race. For his announcement of availability would be a signal that Joe Biden thinks Hillary is politically dead, or close to it, and he is coming in to drop the hammer.
This would be seen as act of crass political opportunism, seizing upon Hillary's travails, shouldering her aside, and seizing a nomination millions of Democrats have long believed was hers by right. How would the millions of Democratic women who have looked forward to the first woman president respond to Biden's barreling in and finishing her off? How enthusiastic would those women and feminists be for a Candidate Biden who had delivered the deathblow to Hillary and blocked for another decade any chance of a woman as president?
Joe would certainly be up for Chauvinist of the Year 2015.
And other problems would arise for a Biden candidacy. Would Bill and Hillary Clinton be out there stumping to help Joe win the presidency, when both had dreamed of her having it?
Joe would have to beat Bernie Sanders and rout the Elizabeth Warren liberals. He would have to woo back the big contributors in the Jewish community who believe Barack Obama and John Kerry threw Israel and Bibi under the bus to cut a deal that empowers the world's leading "state sponsor of terrorism".
If Joe is having second thoughts about getting in, who can blame him? As the old saw goes, "Don't put all your eggs in one basket."
But for Democrats, such counsel comes too late. Hillary is carrying their basket of eggs, and slipping all over the sidewalk. If they procrastinate in designating someone else to catch the basket if it falls, they get Bernie. But if they move too soon, they will be charged with sabotaging the last best chance for America to elect a woman president.
A nice problem for those ubiquitous cable TV talking heads who identify themselves as "Democratic strategists".
(Syndicated columnist Pat Buchanan has been a senior advisor to three presidents, twice a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination and the presidential nominee of the Reform Party in 2000. He won the New Hampshire Republican Primary in 1996.)
Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 August 2015 10:02
Every country has its heroes, but something in America's cultural sauce makes for a unique and unusually effective variety. The ingredient would be improvisation — the ability to perform without preparation, using whatever is at hand to complete the task.
As most of the world knows, Spencer Stone, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler — three pals on a European jaunt — were on a fancy train hurtling toward Paris, when a terrorist bristling with weaponry started attacking passengers.
The Americans were unarmed, but when Skarlatos said "Let's go" to Stone, the off-duty U.S. airman ran down the aisle, grabbed the man by the neck and wouldn't let go, even as the attacker slashed him. Skarlatos grabbed his gun. Sadler and a British passenger, Chris Norman, held down various limbs.
Improvisation requires letting gut instinct take the wheel from overthinking. As Skarlatos, a National Guardsman who spent time in Afghanistan, later told the media, his actions on the train weren't "a conscious decision".
Jazz, a truly American musical form, is all about improvisation, making it up as you go. "Do not fear mistakes," Miles Davis said. "There are none."
"Let's go" reminded many of "Let's roll", Todd Beamer's famous words on a doomed airliner hijacked on Sept. 11, 2001. Beamer and other passengers were trying to neutralize the terrorists and regain control of the airliner.
Before the Normandy D-Day invasion, Gen. Dwight Eisenhower instructed his field commanders to make quick decisions on their own rather than wait for instructions from above. They did, and their improvisation saved many American lives on the battlefield.
In 2009, pilot Chesley Sullenberger landed his disabled airliner on the Hudson River without a single loss of life in a classic example of on-the-spot improvising. Air controllers had suggested one of two nearby airports for an emergency landing, but instinct sharpened by experience told Sullenberger to take that unconventional — and successful — option.
Perhaps because Stone, Skarlatos and Sadler acted so simply, they did not fully comprehend the complex aftermath of what they had done — including the depth of their heroism.
Exercising calm control, they beat the terrorist unconscious but not to death. Stone attended to another wounded passenger in the car, though he himself was seriously hurt. He is a trained medic. That's what medics do.
Once the assailant was out cold, the Americans, with some help, tied him up like a package and handed him over to the French authorities. In their way of thinking, the drama was over.
"I thought they were going to let us go after questioning," Sadler later told assembled media.
Did they imagine that after saving a trainload of passengers, they'd just move on to their next European adventure, say, waiting in line to see the Le Corbusier exhibit at the Pompidou Center?
There was nothing false about these Americans' modesty. They seemed surprised to find themselves in the ornate Elysees Palace, being handed the Legion of Honor, France's highest award, along with Norman.
But there was French President Francois Hollande, tailored to the millimeter, handing medals to the three Americans, who, though clean and pressed, were suitless and tieless. (At least their shirts had collars.) Norman had packed a suit and tie.
Americans obviously don't have a monopoly on quick and courageous action. Do remember Jasper Schuringa, the Dutch national who may have saved Northwest Flight 253 in 2009. Upon seeing a terrorist trying to set off bombs sewn in his underwear, Schuringa jumped over seats to tackle him and started putting out the fire with his hands.
For the three Americans on the train, improvising saved the day, but because it came so naturally, they didn't see the big deal in it. By now, one hopes, they know otherwise.
(A member of the Providence Journal editorial board, Froma Harrop writes a nationally syndicated column from that city. She has written for such diverse publications as The New York Times, Harper's Bazaar and Institutional Investor.)
Last Updated on Tuesday, 25 August 2015 09:34
We are shooting ourselves in our proverbial foot. Politicians on the left and right are playing "gotcha" games with each other as they vie for their positions. And, while they touch on some critical issues, such as immigration and terrorism, not enough is being said about the lack of jobs. We've got a serious problem . . . in fact, a lot of them.
First, what we call the unemployment rate does not actually account for all those people who could work, but aren't employed. Each month the Census Bureau conducts what they call a Current Population Survey (CPS). That survey is designed to get a look at the employment conditions across the country. As part of a very large data base, households get called and go through a series of questions and answers about whether or not a person is working, or is not looking for work. The survey determines from the answers provided, whether or not to count the person as employed or unemployed. A person, who is not working but has not actively sought a job within the last four weeks, is not counted as unemployed. (For more detailed information you may check, http://www.bls.gov/cps/cps_htgm.htm#unemployed) As it stands now, we are told our unemployment rate is 5.3 percent.
If we take a look at the available labor force numbers, our unemployment perspective may change. When George W. Bush took office our population was 282.2 million people, our labor participation rate was 67.3 percent, and 96.28 million people were working. When he left office, our population had grown to 304.1 million people, the labor participation rate had lowered to 65.8 percent, and there were 100.9 million people employed. In President Obama's first year, the population was at 306.8 million, the labor participation rate was 65.4 percent, and 100.9 million people had jobs. As of July 2015, the population has grown to 321.2 million, the labor participation rate is at 62.6 percent, and there are 98.3 million people who are employed.
Since Bush 41 took office, our population has grown from 282.2 to 321.2 million people; an increase of 39 million, or 13.8 percent. And, the number of people who are working has grown from 96.28 to 98.3 million people . . . only 2.1 percent. The looming crisis is that we can't have our working population only increase at a rate of 15 percent of our population growth. That condition presents a building and unsustainable tax burden on those who are working.
A large contributor to the jobs problems is our ever growing government structure. It has overburdened the citizens and companies with incredibly sweeping new laws, and regulations that have the force of law. Those have created huge tax burdens on employers and created an enormous level of uncertainty. Just think for a moment about the term, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse".
CNS new reported that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) has a total of 381,517 words in it. That's a piece of cake when compared to the 11,588,500 words of the laws "regulations" that have the force of law. Do you think every business, big or small, can deal with that? Can you? CNS also reported that since President Obama was elected, the EPA has issued 24,915,000 words in new regulations. Did I hear an "oy vey" out there?
Also related to Obamacare is that when the Congress and the president were ramming the law through, without a single Republican vote, they demonized the health insurance companies on a daily basis, claiming that they were making excess profits and providing terrible service. Well folks, the government wasn't telling the truth. You see, the Associated Press and other organizations actually studied the profits of those companies and found that, on average, health insurance companies were averaging about a 2 percent annual profit.
And we remember that the president stiff-armed religious leaders about abortion provisions, and the law included provisions that directly attacked the First Amendment. Talk about schoolyard bullying . . . the Obamacare folks are continuing to make the Little Sisters of the Poor for the Aged fight for the right to do their good works and still retain their religious beliefs. But I guess the president is a "my way or the highway" kind of guy.
If the government can do what they doing to the Sister of the Poor, and if the government can write millions of words of regulations that have the force of law without those regulations having the approval of Congress, and if the politicians can continue to expand a dependent class by promising more and more, how can any company or individual deal with that kind of uncertainty.
Tell the government to get out of the way and let businesses go about creating jobs-jobs-jobs.
(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)
Last Updated on Monday, 24 August 2015 09:35