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Strange events have staff spooked at Ellacoya Country Store in Gilford

GILFORD — Ghost hunters from Maine will be coming to Ellacoya Country Store to check out a Saint Patrick's Day incident in which the heavy glass top of a cake stand was smashed on the floor behind the store's front counter after inexplicably flying off a pedestal with a three-quarter inch rim.
The incident was caught on a video surveillance video camera and has created a sensation on the Ellacoya Barn and Grille's Facebook page, where it has been viewed by hundreds of people and attracted over 250 comments and led to television stories on WMUR-TV and widespread newspaper accounts.
''Strange things happen here. If you work here long enough they happen to you.'' says Lisa Giles, a clerk at the Ellacoya Country Store, who said that her fellow clerk, Heidi Boyd, was working around 3:30 on Monday afternoon last week when the incident happened.
''Heidi was freaking out after it happened. She had walked out of the room to the deli and heard something crash. When she came back the top was on the floor and she couldn't understand how it got there without taking everything else off the pedestal,'' said Giles.
She said that store owner Steve Buzzota was upset as the cake stand had been a wedding present and decided to check out the surveillance camera to see what had happened and was astonished at what he saw and decided to post it on Facebook to share with the store's customers. He posted it under the heading "Haunted much?"
Since that time there have been a steady string of comments on the Facebook page, with many suggesting that the act was staged to create publicity or that a truck going by the store had hit a pot hole and caused enough vibration to shake the top loose..
Store owner Steve Buzzota told WMUR, "This is definitely not a staged act. This really happened and it's kind of freaky." Boyd told the station she thinks it was a ghost. "This place is very old. You can't make it up. I absolutely believe."
Tammy Johnson, another clerk at the store. says that she has seen and heard many unusual things during her time there.
''I hear people walking on the floor and check it out and there's no one there. Or I see shadows out of the corner of my eye and I check and there's no one there,'' says Johnson.
She says many of those who work at the store have felt someone tap them on the shoulder when there's no one around. At other times people who arrive early in the morning report hearing a man whistling. And there was an incident in which a worker arrived in the morning and found the meat slicer running. Johnson says that the Ghost Hunters will get a warm welcome when they arrive and that she is hoping they can shed some light on the mystery.

Last Updated on Monday, 24 March 2014 11:42

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Sunday morning fire destroys century-old home, kills goats in Gilmanton

GILMANTON — A fast-moving four-alarm fire that apparently started in a barn near the Gilmanton Iron Works Center destroyed at the home that was attached to the barn through an ell that connected the two.

Fire Chief Paul "Joe" Hempel III said the barn was completely engulfed in flames and the blaze was spreading rapidly through the ell, which contained the family kitchen, toward the main part of the house when firefighters arrived just after 11 a.m. Sunday. He said the ell contained the family's kitchen, but the area above the ceiling was open allowing the fire to spread rapidly.

Firefighters could be seen breaking open windows on the second floor as the fire began to vent itself from the gable of the house in the attic above them. Smoke from the blaze permeated the air around the the Iron Works village area.

"The team made a big effort to stop the spread to the house, but the ceiling was open," Hemple said. The house was about 100 years old, said one of the neighbors.

Gilmanton firefighters, who were stationed Sunday at the Iron Works Station, were notified at 11:16 a.m. They called for a second alarm immediately and worked on laying down hose and setting up a water supply through a dry hydrant about 1,000 feet away, said Hempel.

A third alarm was sounded at 11:27 a.m., bringing firefighters from as far away as Laconia, Tilton-Northfield, and Wolfeboro to Route 140. A fourth alarm was call to assist with overhaul.

The fire was determined to be under control at 12:53 p.m. But Gilmanton remained at the fire scene until 6:30 p.m.

Hempel said the homeowners, Russell and Susan Lunt, were in the main part of the house when a passerby noticed the barn was on fire and alerted them to the blaze.

Hempel said the fire was accidental. He said he did not know exactly what started it, but said there was a wood stove in the barn that was used to keep some goats warm. The goats perished, however the two family dogs were outside and were all right.

Hempel said he it's too soon to tell if the house can be salvaged, but said it is uninhabitable at the present time. He said they brought in an excavator to overhaul the barns and the ell and help extinguish the fire.

Last Updated on Monday, 24 March 2014 11:36

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More than 20 eateries signed up for 24th Taste of the Lakes Region

MEREDITH — The 24th annual Taste of the Lakes Region will be held from 4-7 p.m. at Church Landing in Meredith on Sunday, March 30 and will feature over 20 the Lakes Region finest restaurants serving up samples of their culinary specialties for the benefit of the Laconia Altrusa Club's community projects.
The event has raised nearly $300,000 for the Altrusa Club's efforts in promoting literacy and scholarships over the years and has raised the awareness of folks in the Lakes Region of the fine quality and variety of offerings of the area's restaurants.
Annie's Cafe & Catering, back again this year, is owned and operated by Annie Hodapp, who grew up in Goffstown and started working for Sunshine Catering when she was only 14 where she said she liked the opportunity to cook with a friend while listening to rock music. After she graduated from Trinity High School she went west to Colorado State University, where she wasn't quite sure what she was going to major in, but finally settled on resort management after taking an aptitude test that showed that she was best suited to be a chef.
Following graduation from college, she worked for the university for awhile before moving back to New Hampshire, where started working for the Common Man, first at Camp in Meredith and for the next nine years as an event sales manager for the Concord Common Man.
But during the time she was working at the Common Man she lived in Laconia and said that she wanted someplace closer to home to work and decided to go into business for herself, opening up a business in the Three Gables Mall.
A single mom with two children, Hodapp says that she initially had only planned on having a catering business specializing in small events like family gatherings, house parties or office events. But when she saw what the traffic count was in front of her Union Avenue location, she decided to open a retail sales location as well.
''I love to cater, but I also like to bake and I love being around people, so this is a natural setting for me,'' says Hodapp, who on a recent Thursday had a menu featuring homemade broccoli cheddar soup, chicken stew and chicken barley soup, butternut pesto lasagna with garlic bread, also ham, swiss and provolone paninis with garlic mayo, caramelized onions and fresh tomatoes. It was also fresh baked cinnamon rolls day.
''We try to keep it exciting around here and listen closely to what our customers tell us hey want,'' says Hodapp.

She plans on bringing a seasonal spring salad and crab cakes to the event.
Taking part in this year's event are Contiagiani's Catering Service, Fratello's Italian Grille and the Homestead, T-Bones and Cactus Jack's, the Hilltop Restaurant at the Steele Hill Resort, Patrick's Pub and Eatery, Weirs Beach Lobster Pound, Cider Bellies Doughnuts, Ellacoya Barn & Grille, the Inn on Newfound Lake, Kara's Cafe and Cakery, the Manor on Golden Pond, Lago, the Lakehouse Grille, Camp, Giuseppe's Pizzeria & Ristorante, Canoe, O Steaks and Seafood, Hart's Turkey Farm Restaurant, Annie's Cafe and Catering, Woodshed Roasting Company, Hector's Fine Food & Spirits and the Woodlands Tavern.
Tickets cost $25 per person and can be purchased at Hart's Turkey Farm in Meredith or in Laconia at Hector's or at the Coldwell-Banker Residential Brokerage. Because there is a cash bar at the event, no one younger than 21 will be admitted.
Sponsors include the Laconia Altrusa Club, radio stations 93.3 the Wolf, 98.3 LNH, WEMJ AM 1490 and the Laconia Daily Sun.

Last Updated on Monday, 24 March 2014 11:26

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Can Belknap County escape its apparent demographic destiny?

LACONIA — There are two New Hampshires, one based in the southeastern part of the state which is linked to the Boston area economy, and another in the more rural western and northern counties which have a different economy and where people are older and less well educated than those who live to the south, says Ross Gittell, chancellor of the New Hampshire Community College System.

Gittell, speaking to the Belknap Development Council last night at Lakes Region Community College, said that the demographic trend is not favorable to the Belknap County and the northern counties. But there are factors such as quality of life, outdoor recreation and being a good place to raise a family that can make them an attractive place to live.

He said that rural New Hampshire, if measured as a separate state, would have the second-highest percentage of residents over age 65 (only behind Florida), while metro New Hampshire would be in the bottom third of U.S. states with the percentage of residents over age 65.

If rural New Hampshire were a separate state, it would have the lowest percentage of residents age 25-44 among U.S. states. In contrast, metro New Hampshire would rank among the median U.S. states on this same measure. This age 25-44 population is the entry-level workforce critical for many businesses, the workforce that businesses rely on for jobs requiring middle and high skills and the latest technical training.

''You can't grow an economy without young people who have a set of skills,'' Gittell, who said that the community college system is one one of the keys to keeping young people in the state. He said the system should be affordable and flexible and geared to start recruiting young people at the middle school level so that they can realize that it is possible for them to have a good paying job right in their own backyard.

''We can keep them here if we have strong enough programs so that we're able to recruit them and get them through two years of college and even attract people from other states. The Baby Boom cohort doesn't exist in the Northeast anymore and we're going to experience a 20 percent decline in our young population by 2030. So we've got to find a way to get to keep our young people in the state and we do that with well-paying jobs,'' says Gittell.

He said that it is important to pay attention to the middle group of students because they don't get the guidance and attention they need and early enough in their school years.

''We should be testing them in the seventh grade and putting them on a career track and talking with their parents and giving them the help they need, like remedial math, so they can develop the skills they will need,'' said Gittell.

Many companies, like New Hampshire Ball Bearings, already have positions they would be glad to fill right now if they had qualified workers apply, said Gittell.

Across New Hampshire, education and pathways to careers are critical, he said.

"With a younger population that is more highly educated, particularly in the skilled trades and digital and information technology, the state will be much better positioned to retain and attract high-tech innovating firms and fast growing firms.''

He said that in metro New Hampshire this will require building on the strong base and variety of educational institutions, with a focus on strengthening economic connections with industry.

Efforts in rural New Hampshire should focus on investing in existing educational institutions, including community colleges, as affordable pathways to economic advancement.

''Part of this focus should be improved educational alignment and partnerships with industries that have strong rural prospects, such as outdoor recreation, leisure and hospitality, energy and environmental products and services, and certain advanced manufacturing sectors,'' said Gittell.

Last Updated on Friday, 21 March 2014 01:19

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