School year to end on June 16

LACONIA — Students can look forward to June 16 as the day when school will be out for the summer.

They will actually only have to put in a half day on that Friday.

The high school's senior graduation will be on June 9.

Teachers will have an additional week to work after students leave. Their final day before their summer break will be June 23.

The Laconia School Board decided on the dates in its meeting Tuesday night.

– Rick Green

Hill climb returns

03-23 Hill Climb 2011

A motorcyclist attempts the Gunstock Hillclimb in 2011. The event returns to the resort in June. (Courtesy Heavy)

Gunstock to again host motorcycle event


GILFORD — After a hiatus of five years, the hill climb, long a signature feature of Laconia Motorcycle Week, will return to the ski jump at Gunstock Mountain Resort during the 94th running of the "World's Oldest Motorcycle Rally" in June.

The Gunstock Hillclimb, sanctioned by the American Motorcycle Association and sponsored by Ridge Runner Promotions , will be run at the 70-meter ski jump at on Wednesday, June 14 — come rain, come shine — beginning at 9 a.m.

"We're very pleased that the hill climb is coming back to its original location at Gunstock," said Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association. "I know this will make a whole lot of people very happy during Motorcycle Week."

He expressed his appreciation to the management of Gunstock, especially Marketing Director Mike Roth and General Manager Greg Goddard, as well as the members of the Gunstock Commission, for their decision to resume hosting the event.

The hill climb was run at Gunstock 1946 until 1962 and again from 1993 until 2011, when Ridge Runner Promotions, which sponsors the event, and management of the resort failed to renew their contract. For the past five years Ridge Runner Promotions held a competition in the Pro Hill Climb Series sanctioned by the American Motorcycle Association at the organization's site in Canaan.

Goddard said on Wednesday that in anticipation of celebrating the resort's 80th anniversary Roth began reviewing its history and was taken by the tradition of hosting the hill climb. He reached out to the hill climbers among the motorcycling community, beginning with the New England Hill Climbers, who soon passed the baton to Mike Farnsworth of Ridge Runner Promotions.

Roth said that he was impressed that the hill climb was a tradition that ran deep and long and thought "My gosh, tell me all about it." He recalled that when Chris Chartier of the New England Climbers told him that his father ran the hill climb before him and his son was about to follow in their tire tracks, he realized it is "a multi-generational thing people feel passionate and nostalgic about." The hill climb, he said, is in keeping with Gunstock's character as a community and familial resort, where parents have passed on their experience to their children.

"We've come full circle," Roth said. "It's something special that needs to come back."

Goddard said that after some negotiation Gunstock and Ridge Runner Promotions reached an agreement and entered a contract, by which a share of the proceeds from the event would be applied to restoring and maintaining the hill after the event and the balance split between the resort and the sponsor. He said that the Ridge Runners will stage the hill climb itself, while Gunstock will manage the logistics of parking, camping, crowd control and food and beverage service.

"We're really excited to have it back," Goddard said."It fills a hole in the schedule for Motorcycle Week and generates revenue for the resort between the winter and summer seasons."

Belknap County Commissioner Dave DeVoy, who urged the Gunstock Commission to host the event, said he was disappointed when the hill climb moved to Canaan and pleased that the longstanding event has been revived, not least because it will strengthen the financial performance of the resort. Speaking as a business owner, he noted that trade at his gas station and convenience store on Lakeshore Road dropped off significantly in the middle of the rally without the hill climb.

St. Clair said he is pleased that the hill climb will be limited to amateur riders.

"An amateur is a big draw, because the odds of getting to the top are a lot less," he explained, "and if you don't make it, you've got get your bike back down that steep hill. It's quite a feat either way," recalling his own experience of getting 20 feet shy of the top and having to get down to the bottom.

"I was petrified," he confessed.

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The Gunstock Hillclimb was one of the most popular Motorcycle Week events when it was run. (Courtesy photo)

A taste of Bob McCarthy

03-22 James Montgomery and Bob McCarthy

Bob McCarthy, right, plays with blues harpist James Mongomery at the Flying Monkey. McCarthy, who has played with Jefferson Airplane, Neil Young, John Mayall and more, will perform at the Taste of the Lakes Region this Sunday. (Courtesy photo)

Altrusa International event to feature local musician and food Sunday


LACONIA — "Music doesn't define who I am," remarked Bob McCarthy, whose skill with guitar and mandolin has earned him respect, friends and a living for more than half a century, "but it has given me something to do."

Sipping coffee at his home overlooking Lake Winnisquam, McCarthy, when asked what sort of music he plays, answers "How much do you have?" He said his father, an academic who played violin, once told him "There are no bad gigs." In a recent interview with Blues Magazine he described himself as "a working musician with emphasis on work."

McCarthy played his first "big gig" at 16, performing with the Back Alley Boys at the New World's Fair in 1964 then began plying the coffee houses and college stages around Boston and Cambridge. "Boston was San Francisco east," he recalled. His talent took him to New York, where his solo performance at Gerde's Folk City, the legendary Greenvwich Village venue, prompted Variety to note that "His work on six-string acoustic guitar stands out" and he "seems unhampered by delivering solo stylings usually associated with combos."

McCarthy began picking folk songs and country blues, which have remained the staples of a repertoire that stretches to jazz, ragtime, bluegrass, jazz, rhythm and blues, and gospel, laced with strains of Ireland and Brazil. "You have be versatile to make a living at this," he said. "I've had to do everything."

The breadth of McCarthy's repertoire reflects his aesthetic approach to his music, which he described as "conceptualist." Himself a painter, he suggested that like painters, musicians have a concept or sense of the changes overtaking the culture at particular times and present themselves in harmony with it.

"Remember the boy bands wearing matching suits? You don't see them anymore," he said. "That's why Bob Dylan's voice changes," he laughed, or "why Lou Reed's sound echoed what was going on with Andy Warhol."

McCarthy's virtuosity has placed him on the stage and in the studio of any number of more familiar names, including the Jefferson Airplane, Bonnie Raitt, the Everly Brothers, Pentangle, Neil Young, Taj Mahal, John Prine, the Youngbloods, Larry Coryell, Livingston Taylor, Nanci Griffith and Leo Kottke. With John Compton and Andy Pratt of Appaloosa, he shared a stage in Washington with Charlie Mingus, Jonathan Edwards and Linda Ronstadt, and recently played alongside bluesman John Mayall

When Tommy Makem found himself short a guitar player, McCarthy pinch hit. He said that he was not altogether familiar with the set list.

"I figured I could watch Tommy's hands" he said, "but discovered he was playing banjo."

No matter. McCarthy spent the next 12 years touring with Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers. He remembered he and Makem were a good match because "we were both Catholic and Tommy didn't drink and I'm not a drinker either."

McCarthy has also enjoyed a longstanding friendship with James Montgomery, there master of the blues harp, with whom he formed a jug band in 1967. Montogomery is featured on McCarthy's album "Satisfied Mind," which he described as a collection of blues he began with.

McCarthy admitted to being something of a introvert, who would rather practice his art than promote himself. Critics have referred to him as "a sadly lesser known" picker, singer and songwriter and "one of New England's closest kept mandolin/guitar secrets."

McCarthy himself noted that his work serves as "bumper music," the riffs played between stories, on National Public Radio. "I've made it," he crowed. "Bumper music. Nobody knows who you are."

But, McCarthy has not escaped the praise and respect of peers.

"If there were any justice in the world," said Kaukonen of the Jefferson Airplane, Hot Tuna and a bluesman in his own right, "you'd be a well-known big dawg!"

McCarthy, together with Tom Logan, with whom he has played since they were teens, will perform at the 27th Annual Taste of the Lakes Region, presented by Altrusa International of Laconia, on Sunday, March 26, between 4 and 6 p.m. at Church Landing in Meredith. Admission is limited those 21 and over and tickets are $30 per person. McCarthy said he will offer a mix of classic and original material, leavened with instrumentals.

03-22 Bob McCarthy

Bob McCarthy at the Flying Monkey. (Courtesy photo)