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Fried dough aside, fair stays close to its agricultural roots

SANDWICH — There were 184 yoke of oxen exhibited at the very first Sandwich Fair back in 1886 and that tradition continues today with agriculture and farm animals still at the heart of the fair, which features competitions involving every imaginable kind of farm creature, from sheep, pigs, goats and chickens to draft horses, oxen, milking cows and beef cattle.
Mike Brooks of Chocorua View Farm in Madison had his Angus beef cattle at this year's Sandwich Fair, which he's been attending as an exhibitor for over 30 years. He watched from the stable area as his 6-year-old daughter Alyssa hitched a lead line to a three-month old calf, Missy, and led up her up and down between the buildings.
Alyssa had to give Missy a tug to get her to leave the comfort of her mother's side at first but showed composure and command as she led Missy back and forth.
And while she was a bit too young to show an animal on her own she did get to get into the beef cattle show ring with her 13-year-old brother Jonathan as he showed one of the farm's 16 cattle in the 4-H Beef Show.
Nearby, members of the Torsey family from Breezy Ridge Farm in New Hampton continued their 48 year tradition of showing milking shorthorns at Sandwich Fair.
Family matriarch Patricia Torsey, 81, said that the family had done well in Sunday's open dairy show and that her nephew, Stephen Uhlman, 23, of Ashland, had handled the farm's cattle.
Her late husband, Ken, who died in 2011 and who was honored by having that year's Sandwich Fair booklet dedicated to him that same year, drove the family of five all the way to northern Maine in 1966 to pick up a milking shorthorn calf because there none in New Hampshire at that time. That was the start of the family tradition.
At the oxen barn Tyler Enos, 13, of Jaffrey had his team of Brown Swiss, Willey and Jack, entered in the under 2,500 pound class in the Oxen and Steer Cart Obstacle Course. He's been showing oxen at the fair for seven years and hopes to compete in future years in the over 2,500 pound class as they're a little over a year old and still have lots of time to get bigger.
Jenna Brown of Strafford had a pair of Holstein oxen, Snoopy and Peanut, taking part in the same competition. She's been showing oxen for Willey Pond Farm for over 10 years and says that it's fun getting the large animals to cooperate with each other and pull at her command.

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Alyssa Brooks, 6, of Madison shows her calf handling skills by leading Missy, a three-month-old Angus, through the cattle barn area at the Sandwich Fair. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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Jenna Brown of Willey Pond Farm in Strafford with her team of oxen, Snoopy and Peanut, took part in the Ox and Steer Cart Pulling competition Monday at the Sandwich Fair. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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A competitor urges his team on in the oxen pulling matches Sunday at the Sandwich Fair. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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A judge hands out grades in the 4-H sheep show at the Sandwich Fair Sunday. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Monday, 13 October 2014 11:13

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Public Access throws up 'Hail Mary' to stay on air

LACONIA — The board of directors of Lakes Region Public Access television, faced with the prospect of going out of business at midnight on Wednesday, October 22, elected to throw a Hail Mary pass at an emergency meeting held Saturday morning at the station's studio at Laconia High School.
Directors voted unanimously to send out bills to member communities requesting the original amounts that would have been paid rather than those adopted as part of a new business plan the board had hoped to implement earlier this year.
''We really needed more time to put this together. I pushed for a shorter schedule and I was wrong,'' said Chan Eddy of Gilford, chairman of the LRPA board of directors.
It is expected that the bills, with a cover letter from Eddy explaining the stations' financial problems, will be mailed to member communities today.
LRPA has an annual operating budget of about $130,000 and employs five people: station manager Denise Beauchaine as well as one full-time and one part-time worker and two contractors.
LRPA has been drawing from its reserves to sustain operations since July 1, when member municipalities entered a new 10-year contract with MetroCast Cablevision. Under the new contract each municipality will operate educational and governmental channels (24 and 26), which broadcast only to the municipality where the programming originates while LRPA would provide public access on channel 25, airing programs from individuals and organizations from the member municipalities. However, the municipalities, which had contributed to funding the operation of LRPA, withdrew their support. and, at the same time, MetroCast withheld its annual $30,000 grant to LRPA, leaving the station without a revenue stream.
At Saturday's meeting Beauchaine said there was only $14,000 left in LRPA's checking account and that $4,000 plus an additional $1,000 cable tax is required for each pay period.
Former LRPA board chairman Ken Curley of Northwood said ''time is running out and we haven't gotten any support from some of the towns,'' and added he hoped that sending out the bills would generate enough funds to help the station get to the point where it can get through until the new business plan can be implemented.
As early as February, the board of directors of the LRPA anticipated that its funding would be eroded when the new contract was signed and began drafting a new business plan, with the goal of generating $300,000 in income the first year. Sponsorships from between 50 and 100 businesses at between $1,000 and $2,000 a year were projected to provide much of the revenue with fees for service accounting for the balance. But the plan has never been implemented.
''I have to take responsibility for this. We needed another year to put it together,'' said Eddy, who said that the board of directors are as individuals too busy to be able to market the new plan to potential sponsors and donors.
Laconia City Councilman Bob Hamel, a member of the LRPA board, said ''we all kind of knew this was coming when LRPA was left out of the new contract. We lost a tremendous amount of money and now we have a real mountain to climb. We need someone full-time to work getting the new plan into place but don't have the funds to hire anyone.''
The impending closure of the station has already caused concern over how the popular WLNH Children's Auction will be handled this year. Binnie Media, new owner of the local radio station, had a cameraman at Saturday's meeting from WNIN-TV.
Beauchaine said she had been approached by Binnie Media over what it would cost to get LRPA TV through December, when the auction is broadcast.
She said that it costs about $10,000 a month to operate the station and said that the potential funds which would be available if all communities paid the bills which were sent out would be about $129,000.
Eddy said that the station would also be appealing to local banks to help them weather the current storm and help stabilize the revenue stream until the new business plan can take effect.

Last Updated on Monday, 13 October 2014 11:07

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Police charge Belmont man with sexual assault of 13-year-old

BELMONT — Police have charged a Laconia Road man with four counts of felonious sexual assault for allegedly having sexual contact with a girl who was 13 when the assaults began.

Police said Steven Price, 64, was taken into custody at his home without incident and later released on $10,000 personal recognizance bail

The woman making the allegation said the assaults began when she was 13  and continued for a number of years.

Police declined to release any further information.

Last Updated on Saturday, 11 October 2014 12:46

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Large number of employees outraged as county home head gets his job back

LACONIA — The Personnel Committee of the Belknap County Convention has voted unanimously to reinstate Belknap County Nursing Home Administrator Mathew Logue to the position he was fired from by the Belknap County Commissioners in late August.
The decision was announced yesterday afternoon by two of the three committee members, Rep. Colette Worsman (R-Meredith) and Rep. Robert Greemore (R-Meredith), who met yesterday at the Belknap County Complex to approve minutes of the two and a half hour non-public session held Monday night at which the decision was made and in which Rep. Richard Burchell (R-Gilmanton), who was not present yesterday, also joined the unanimous vote.
The committee also voted to enter into the record a three-page copy of its decision but did not reveal its contents until asked by County Finance Director Glen Waring what the decision was as they sought to close the meeting.
Worsman then read the decision to those who were at the meeting, most of whom were nursing home or county employees, most of whom were already aware of the decision due to the circulation of a communication from Burchell earlier in the day which said that the decision had been to reinstate Logue without loss of pay.
Logue was terminated by commissioners effective September 13 and had been notified by the commissioners in a letter sent to him on August 27. He subsequently appealed the termination to the Personnel Committee, which heard testimony for nearly six hours at a hearing on Monday, October 6.
According to the committee's statement, their deliberations focused on the issues of dishonesty, neglect of duty, willful in subordination and lack of cooperation, which witnesses called for the county commissioners had testified to on Monday.
At Monday's hearing County Administrator Debra Shackett had testified that there were at least two times in which Logue was untruthful with her, in February of this year when he had told her that all of the personnel evaluations except one had been completed, and in May of this year when she inquired about developments in a situation with an employee identified only as Employee A and he had told her that it was being handled with meetings every other week.
She said that she was shocked to discover a month after Logue had told her that evaluations had been completed except for one that none had been delivered to the Human Resources Department.
Shackett also said that in August, when she talked to Employee A, whom she had questioned Logue about earlier, the employee told her that no meetings had been held regarding her situation.
Employee A testified behind closed doors at Monday's hearing.
The committee said that Logue had credibly and persuasively testified that he had delayed submitting evaluations because some were due shortly after he assumed his duties in December of 2012 and he wanted more time and in other cases he had evaluations. They also found his testimony credible in the situation with Employee A.
The committee also noted ''although the commissioners presented credible evidence that Mr. Logue neglected important duties when he failed to submit his budget, staff analysis and employee evaluations in a timely, the Personnel Committee found Mr. Logue's testimony credible and more persuasive.''
The committee also sided with Logue on charges of willful insubordination for failure to sign a disciplinary letter and said that despite evidence that he had failed to cooperate with the county administrator, the Human Resources director and Finance director on several occasions that some of the delays came as a result of his ''sincerely held beliefs regarding the proper administration of the nursing home.''
After Worsman read the letter, Waring said from his seat in the audience that the report ''was not worth the paper it was written on,'' and there was a general clamor of discontent from the audience.
''It's a circus. I've never seen anything like this in my 40 years here,'' said Deborah White of Belmont, the longest tenured employee at the Belknap County Nursing Home.

''I'm ashamed of them,'' she said of the committee members, adding ''If I were them, I wouldn't show my face in public.''
Fellow employee Carolee Sliker of Laconia, who has been at the nursing home for 16 years as dietary manager, said ''I'm appalled that after the amount of evidence brought forth on Monday that they came up with a decision like this. It's a disservice to our residents, their family members and staff to bring him back. They should not be putting the nursing home in jeopardy for political reasons.''
Sliker said that she and more than 40 other nursing home employees had signed a petition which was circulated last week asking that Logue not be reinstated. County Administrator Shackett confirmed that she had received the petition Friday and that it had 43 signatures.
Belknap County Commissioner Steve Nedeau (R-Meredith) said he was ''disgusted'' with the decision. ''Evidently they (the committee members) didn't go to the same hearing I was at Monday.''
Thea Aloise of Gilford, whose husband, Dana, is a resident at the nursing home, said that she thinks the committee had no intention of listening to what the county officials had to say at Monday's hearing. ''I think it was pre-determined before they ever started.''

Last Updated on Saturday, 11 October 2014 12:27

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