Cut your own or support a charity with Christmas greenery

GILFORD — Nothing inspires the Christmas spirit like a beautiful fragrant fir tree trimmed with colorful decorations and sparkling lights. And Lakes Region residents have lots of options for finding that perfect tree, whether they prefer to cut their own or pick one from a retail lot.
Christmas trees are being offered for sale at many locations throughout the area, with charitable organizations raising funds for their projects through the sales, like the Gilford Rotary Club, which is now in its 29th year of selling trees.
This year, they are set up at the Gilford Cinema 8 Plaza on Route 11, where they are selling freshly cut Fraser fir and balsam fir trees in all shapes and sizes, from table top to 12 feet tall. Sales started Friday and run from noon till 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 13.
The Laconia Kiwanis Club is selling trees on Court Street in a lot next to Coldwell Banker Real Estate from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. daily and are offering free delivery for their customers. Proceeds will benefit the Belknap House, a seasonal shelter for the homeless which is being developed in Laconia.
And on Route 106 in Belmont, the Friends of Belmont Football are selling Christmas trees at at the Gates Farm, just south of the Country Kitchen outlet. They offer balsam fir, Fraser fir and the hybrid Fralsam fir. Hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekends and 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays.
In New Hampshire, there are nearly 200 Christmas tree farms throughout the state, most of them family owned and operated, tending thousands of perfect trees. Many of them offer a cut-your-own experience, like Lemay Tree Farm on Emerson Road in Gilford, just off from Swain Road near the top of Liberty Hill.
Owner Greg Lemay has been growing trees since there since 1981 and has between 5,000 and 6,000 trees on 10 acres. His trees include Fraser and balsam firs, as well a blue spruce – "The ones with the prickly needles," says Lemay – as well as white pine, and the Concolor fir, which is native to American Southwest and has a citrus fragance like tangerines.
"People come here from all over the state just because of the white pine. We're one of the few tree farms which sells them," said Lemay.
He also has a $10 corral, which is populated by Scotch pine, the trees he originally raised and which have since fallen out of favor.
Other cut-your-own operations include the Muehlke Family Tree Farm on Belknap Mountain Road in Gilford, which, in addition to the other popular varieties, offers Colorado blue spruce and white spruce; Fox Farm on Upper Bay Road in Sanbornton; Watson Farm on Watson Road off from South Road in Belmont, where all trees are $35; Neva Dun Farm on Peacham Road in Barnstead; Glove Hollow Christmas Tree Farm on Route 3 south of Plymouth; and Third Stone Christmas Tree Farm on Garland Road in Barnstead Parade.

Caption pix slugged Lemay tree
Greg Lemay of Lemay's Tree Farm in Gilford measured an eight-foot high Fraser Fir which was cut by Joy Southworth and Amy Breton of Gilford , who were helped out in their search for the perfect tree by 15-week-old Marco, a Yellow Lab. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Staying young on skates - adult hockey leagues from me and women to Lakes Region ice rinks

LACONIA — As ponds and lakes begin to skim over with ice, young athletes might be tempted to root around in their closets to find the skates and sticks they'll need once ice hockey season begins. The sport isn't just for the young, though, as the young-at-heart are also lacing up and heading to the ice arena, where adult hockey leagues are already in full swing.

Ray Vigue, who organizes the Lakes Region Legends adult men's league at Laconia Ice Arena, said the league was started by Ken McKinnon more than a dozen years ago. McKinnon, the first Canadian recruited to play at UNH, graduated in 1962 and still holds the Wildcat record for goals scored in a game. Vigue said that McKinnon was passionate about hockey, and he clearly wasn't ready to hang up his skates after his collegiate career. He founded the Granite State Hockey League and played in several Concord area teams. McKinnon later started the Lakes Region Legends, a 35-and-older men's team.

"He deserves a lot of credit for getting us all together and getting it all started," said Vigue.

The Lakes Region Legends league fields ten teams of men, most in the 40 to 60 age range, with games three nights each week. There's also a men's league which meets on Friday nights at the ice arena, and a third adult league for the more competitive. For Vigue, who didn't start playing organized hockey until he was in his 40s, the more casual pace of the Legends league is the right fit.

"It's fun hockey, " he said. "There's not supposed to be any intentional contact. We keep it a very fun, easy-going league."

Vigue has a roster of 85 full-time players, who play 11-on-11 games. Some players are on more than one team. It's a popular pastime – he said there are men who want full-time action who sit on the waiting list for years. Fortunately, it's much easier to get a taste of the action, as he also has a substitute list, and he said there are a handful of substitutes required each week.

What's motivating so many to get back on the ice? Vigue said there's two forces at work. First, there's a pure love of a game.

"If you like playing the game, it's a great way at the end of your career," he said. Then there's the opportunity for the type of camaraderie available from team sports.

"The locker room, male bonding thing," he said.

Local women have gotten into the game, too. The Lakes Region Women's Hockey Club was formed in 1993 by Kathy Gardiner, Lianne Lahrette, Betsy Spencer and Paige Rooney, who set up the club for instruction and recreation. The players first convened at the open-air rink at New Hampton School, but have been at the Laconia Ice Arena since it was built in 1996. Today, the club is organized by Rooney, Lori Marsh and Sara Rosenbloom.

"We play every Tuesday night all winter long," said Rosenbloom. "There's no requirement to play. You don't have to have any experience. You just need to be 21 and have hockey equipment. Players in the Women's Club range in age from 20s to 60s, and with all levels of experience."

Rosenbloom said there have consistently been enough players to fill a 24-player roster, though there are a currently a few open spots.

"This year, we're actively trying to recruit players," she said.

"Women's hockey is different than men's hockey – it's more of a finesse game," Rosenbloom said. "Most of us are there because it's a lot of fun. It's fast-paced, you don't think about anything else while you're playing, and it's good exercise."

"It's a pretty accepting group. People aren't afraid to show up if you have some basic skating and hockey skills," Rosenbloom said. "People have a good time playing."

Interested in playing? Visit laconiaicearena.com and click on the "adult hockey" tab for more information.

Comissioners tell convention more budget transfers will be needed (379)

LACONIA — The Belknap County Convention's Executive Committee approved a half dozen line item budget transfers when it met Wednesday afternoon at the Belknap County complex, including $95,000 for an increase in the so-called New Hampshire Bed Tax which is based on a percentage of the revenues received by the Belknap County Nursing Home.
County Administrator Debra Shackett said that the nursing home received more revenue than originally projected in this year's budget and will have to pay a 5.5 percent tax on the additional income.
Rep. Frank Tilton (R-Laconia) observed that the Bed Tax was enacted "'as a gimmick when we started to tax hospitals and give money back to them," a device used in many states to obtain more Medicare funds.
Other budget transfers approved included $52,225 for part-time and overtime wages in nursing home employees from the full-time wage account, $1,035 for the nursing home retirement account from the full-time wage account, $12,000 from the full-time wage account to professional management services to pay for the services of a New London firm hired to manage the nursing home until a full-time administrator is hired, $14,700 for dispatcher wages and overtime in the Sheriff's Department from the wages for full-time deputies account and $800 for vehicle maintenance at the nursing home from the new equipment budget line.
It was explained that the a truck used by the nursing home for snow plowing broke down recently and needs to be repaired as soon as possible so that it will be available this winter.
County Commissioners told the committee members that additional budget transfers will be needed by the end of the year, including $75,000 for medical services and supplies for the corrections department, $8,544.23 for wages in the county attorney's office, $3,600 for medical services in the county attorney's office and $5,000 for electricity for the register of deeds office.
Commission Chairman David DeVoyy (R-Sanbornton) said that the major increase in the medical services for the corrections department, which was originally budgeted for $150,000, is accounted for in large part by medical services required by inmates which were provided at Lakes Region General Hospital and Dartmouth-Hithcock Medical Center as well as anticipated bills from Horizons Counseling Center, which is working with the department on a pilot program for substance abusers designed to give them treatment prior to court action involving their cases.