GILFORD — Laconia Mayor Mike Seymour may be stepping down from his official post early next year, but he'll continue to serve as the honorary mayor of Pub Mania, the popular WLNH Children's Auction event which got underway yesterday.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the fifth annual Pub Mania at Patrick's Pub & Eatery yesterday, Seymour agreed to a request from Alan Beetle of Patrick's Pub that he stay on as ''Pub Mania Mayor.''
Beetle made the request after Seymour had read a proclamation which proclaimed yesterday as ''Pub Mania Day'' and cited Seymour's many contributions to both as Pub Mania and the Children's Auction during his four years as mayor.
During his opening remarks Seymour said that the work of the Children's Auction continues year round and that the funds that are raised help deal with real problems.
''How many families are sending kids to school who aren't dressed properly? And how many kids are going to bed both cold and hungry at night? Don't kid yourself. Those things are happening right here in our community.'' said Seymour.
''Even the best fall down some time. Helping them back up by giving them a hand is something we can be proud of doing,'' said Seymour, who added that all those taking part in Pub Mania can be proud of what they're doing on behalf of the community.
He singled out auction volunteer Lisa Cornish for her support, noting that she had once been a beneficiary of support from the auction and was now an ambassador for the event, helping to organize and raise funds for the event.
Since Pub Mania joined the Children's Auction, it has grown almost fourfold to become its largest single contributor. The event raised $47,000 in 2009, $60,000 in 2010, $110,700 in 2011 and $165,300 last year, a total of $384,000 in four years.
In addition to the money raised, the event collected 5,724 food items for the local food pantry at St. Vincent de Paul.
Inspired by Cycle Mania at the Laconia Athletic & Swim Club, where relay teams kept the wheels of stationary cycle spinning for 24 hours, Pub Mania involves some 720 competitors, whom Beetle refers to as ''culinary athletes.'' The event features 30 teams of 24 members apiece. Each team is assigned one of the stools ringing the bar at Patrick's Pub, where each of its members sits for one hour, gathering pledges from those who support their team. Each team must raise at least $1,000.
Meanwhile, Pub Maniacs are treated to live music, poetry readings, comedy hours, talent contests, karaoke, barstool yoga and arts and crafts. A crew of referees may award teams points for their participation and performance in contests or dock them points for leaving a stool empty or overstaying their leave as well as conduct "contrary to the spirit of Pub Mania."
The WLNH Children's Auction is held every December. After raising $2,100 in its first year over 31 years ago, the Children's Auction has now raised over $2 million dollars. 100 percent of the funds are donated to local charities focusing on children's basic needs.
Warren Bailey, who is credited with starting the auction, said it has grown over the years from its humble beginnings to the point where it has become ''a snowball of love'' each year.
He recalled one of the early auctions when it was held in downtown Laconia and was broadcast only on the radio.
''It was a freezing cold day and a woman and her young child were there with no boots and no winter coat. We we were able to get them clothes and someone said to me 'by the way, her mother is a druggy.' Some 25 years later a woman in her 30s who works at Wall Street brokerage firm in the Boston area came up to me at the auction and gave me a big check. She said 'here's my check. It's time to give back.' I realized it was that little girl from years ago. When I asked about her mother she told me that she had died some years later of a drug overdose,'' said Bailey.
Enthusiasm remains high for the Pub Mania event according to Tony Felch of the Cafe DejaVu team, which last year topped all teams by raising $18,000.
''We held our first fundraiser for this year's Pub Mania in March. Next year we'll be starting with an event on Feb. 1 for the 2014 Pub Mania. It's a great event, lots of fun and a wonderful way to help the community.''