Cirque du Laconia – Artsfest to bring circus arts to Laconia Multicultural Festival

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Erin Lovett Sherman on Lyra.  (Courtesy photo)

LACONIA —  Erin Lovett Sherman grew up in Laconia, then left to study and travel the globe, along the way becoming engrossed in the world of circus arts. She now resides in her native city, and will be among the dozens of performers on stage during Saturday's Multicultural Festival, a day-long exhibition of food and performance which revels in the diverse cultures and histories that come together to create the contemporary American community.

Lovett Sherman's world tour includes The University of the Arts, in Philadelphia, where she studied dance. She has spent time in Peru, Russia, Lithuania, Bermuda, India, Jamaica and Ecuador, sometimes as a teacher and sometimes as a student. She has also taught, and learned, in Montreal, where Canada's Ecole nationale de Cirque is located, and where the internationally-known Cirque du Soleil is headquartered. For the past ten years, Lovett Sherman's company Artsfest has been based in the Laconia Community Center, where she teaches performing arts classes for all ages of students. She also is the director of youth programming and outreach at the New England Center for Circus Arts, in Vermont.

On Saturday, Lovett Sherman will lead a troupe of performers as part of the Parade of Flags that marks the beginning of the 15th Multicultural Day in Laconia, and will be one of the first performances on the main stage at Rotary Park.

Lovett Sherman said that the modern circus mirrors contemporary society in that it has evolved through the combination of techniques sourced from myriad cultures. Circus performers will display skills that can be traced back to eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. These skills were first brought together in England in the 18th Century, and were brought to North America in the mid-19th Century, where touring big-top circuses took advantage of the developing railroad network, and where a distinctly American circus culture developed. The circus arts are currently enjoying a renaissance, Lovett Sherman said, thanks to Cirque du Soleil, which redefined the circus experience.

"This is a whole revolution in circus. It's probably grown ten times in the last 20 years, and it's continuing to grow," she said.

Through her teaching of circus arts to young people, Lovett Sherman has become convinced that these centuries-old skills still hold their value in today's world.

"I have seen really amazing things working with youth," she said. Circus arts are athletic and promote teamwork, yet provide an experience unlike sports.

"It's non-competitive. Everyone has their chance to shine in a circus, so I feel that it's incredibly relevant," she said. "I've seen it both for boys and girls, it's very empowering."

She would love to share her skills with more people in Laconia, especially young people, so she eagerly accepted the invitation to participate in this year's Multicultural Festival.

"It's my favorite day in Laconia. I'm really excited to be part of it," she said, adding that the festival highlights, "people that are hidden in our city and we can find them and show things about their culture that we didn't know."

Becky Guyer, executive director of the festival, said that Lovett Sherman, and her Cirque du Soleil-inspired performers, was asked to participate to help alleviate an under-representation of French-Canadian heritage at the festival, and that their unicyclists and stilt-walkers will add a new dimension to the opening parade, which begins at 10 a.m.

In fact, those who come to the Multicultural Festival will see lots of new things, including an all-new schedule of entertainment, with non-stop performances from on three different stages, beginning immediately after the parade and continuing until 4 p.m. Rotary Park will host the main stage, while other performances will also take place at stages at City Hall and in the Healthlink parking lot.

"I love our entertainment schedule this year, I'm so excited about it," said Guyer. The Belknap Mill is participating for the first time this year, with an open house featuring historic displays and demonstrations, an art exhibit and a display of all the flags carried in the parade.

Even more diverse than the entertainment schedule will be the many food an craft vendors. By Guyer's count, 36 distinct cultures will be represented among the vendors. Every year, she said, she has experience of finding a new favorite food at the festival, something that she probably wouldn't have the courage to order on a menu or try to make at home. But, when she sees and smells the food on display, she dives right in.

"You walk up and it looks good," she said. "This is celebrating America – all the different cultures and diversity that is in America. It's like sharing."

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Erin Lovett Sherman on Spanish Web. (Courtesy photo)

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Bank of NH CEO to retire


LACONIA — The Bank of New Hampshire announced Tuesday that Mark Primeau, after serving as president and chief executive officer since 2008, will retire in June 2017.

Primeau joined the bank in at the beginning of what became the most severe recession since the 1930s and will leave it the largest independent bank in the state with 24 offices, some 300 employees, and more than 47,000 customers.

"We were able to grow even during the recession," Primeau said, explaining that both depositors and borrowers sought shelter from the storm by turning to community banks. During Primeau's tenure, the bank acquired or opened seven new offices — in Antrim and Hillsborough in 2008, Manchester and Rochester in 2012, and Plymouth, Campton and Portsmouth this year.

To signal its lengthening reach across the state, the bank changed its name for the second time. Originally chartered as Meredith Bridge Savings Bank in 1831, it became Laconia Savings Bank in 1869 then, 143 years later, Bank of New Hampshire in 2012. It remains the oldest bank in the state.
In the meantime, the bank's assets have grown from $966 million to more than $1.4 billion. In 2015, deposits grew to a record $995.2 million, residential mortgages totaled $110.1 million and commercial loans reached a record $407 million. Along with steady growth and solid earnings, the bank maintained a strong capital position of more than $140 million with equity and capital ratios far in excess of the FDIC's requirements to qualify as "well capitalized."

Primeau said that the character of the bank as a mutual institution, "without pressures from stockholders or Wall Street," is foundation of its success. He said that earnings, rather than being distributed to stockholders, are reinvested to improve products and services for the customers and to enhance and strengthen the communities the bank serves. In Laconia alone, the bank has contributed $75,000 for the improvements at Robbie Mills Field to bring the New Engand Collegiate Baseball League to the city, $250,000 for the construction of the artificial turf field at Laconia High School, $500,000 toward the renovation and restoration of the Colonial Theatre and $10,000 toward replacing the roof at the Belknap Mill. At the same time, the bank has donated to any number of other capital campaigns while routinely sponsoring events like the LRGH Annual Golf Tournament and the New Hampshire Music Festival.

"We are very committed to Laconia, our hometown," Primeau said, "but, we basically do the same in all the communities we operate in." The bank contributes more than $500,000 to charitable causes and community projects each year while its employees more than 10,000 hours in community service.

"I'm very proud of our employees," Primeau said, describing them as "the best in banking." He added that he also took pride in the strength and growth of the bank itself, which he expected will remain strong and continue growing for generations to come.

Like the bank, Primeau has been engaged in the community. He served as president of the Daniel Webster Council — Boy Scouts of America between 2011 and 2014 and chairs its board of directors. He also served as chairman of the Granite United Way, continues to serve as a director and last year was named Volunteer of the Year. For the past six years, Primeau has been a trustee of LRGHealthcare, was a founding member of the New Hampshire Coalition for Business and Education and chairman of the New Hampshire Bankers Association in 2014.

Primeau said his retirement comes as no surprise to the board of directors. "The search has already commenced," he said. The board of directors has engaged Atlantic Financial Marketing, a team directed by Ted Amazeen and Rick Lund, to undertake a nationwide search for a successor.

Primeau said that while he will leave the bank, he will remain a resident and citizen of Laconia.

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Bruce D. Clow, left, chairman of the board for Bank of New Hampshire, announced that after more than nine years of leadership as president and CEO, K. Mark Primeau, right, plans to retire as of June 30, 2017. (Courtesy photo)

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Meredith’s Jeanie Forrester goes for governor

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Jeannie Forrester (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)


LACONIA — Belknap County has never sent a governor to the State House, nor has the Republican Party ever elected a woman to the corner office. After serving three terms in the New Hampshire Senate, Jeanie Forrester of Meredith is bidding to make history by drawing on her experience as a community activist and touting her commitment to conservative ideals to offer herself to voters as "a governor for the people."

A native of Michigan, Forrester was raised in a blue collar family and came to New Hampshire from Texas with her husband, Keith, who grew up in Hollis, after the two met while working together at Exxon-Mobil. She earned degree from the University of New Hampshire to become the first member of her family to graduate from college and, while working, added a master's degree in business administration from the Whittemore School of Business Administration. The Forresters own and operate a small environmental technology firm.

Forrester has established a prominent and popular presence in the Lakes Region. She has served as an executive director with the New Hampshire Main Street Program both in Plymouth for two years and with the Greater Meredith Program for five years prior to stepping down in 2009. She was among those on roster of Municipal Resources Inc., which provides managerial and technical support to cities and towns, which earned her a two-year stint as town administrator in Tuftonboro and as interim town administrator in New Durham. And for the past six years she has represented 27 towns in Belknap, Grafton and Merrimack counties in the Senate, visiting each one at least once every year.

Forrester was no stranger to politics prior to her election to the Senate in 2010. She was a personal assistant to Gov. John H. Sununu as well as a legislative aide to his chief legal counsel and executive director of his Initiatives Program for Excellence in Education. Subsequently she served as a special assistant to Congressman Bill Zeliff, who represented the First Congressional District from 1991 to 1997.

In the Senate, Forrester rose quickly, primarily as the foremost opponent of the Northern Pass project, which would encroach on more than two-thirds of the towns in her district. In her second term she was named to chair the powerful Senate Finance Committee. Yet even from the ranks of Senate leadership, Forrester set her own course, dissenting on controversial votes to reduce the taxation of hospitals, increase the gasoline tax and most recently to expand eligibility for Medicaid.

When Forrester first ran for the Senate, she proclaimed that she would be a champion of the communities and their residents, whose interests, she claimed, were at best overlooked and at worst undermined by state government. She has struck the same theme in her campaign for governor. She offers a plan, titled "A Government for the People," to reform state government, which includes capping state spending to the rate of price inflation and population growth, requiring a supermajority of two-thirds to increase an existing tax or levy a new tax and "the Forrester Factors," seven criteria she will apply in deciding to sign or veto legislation."These are ideas," she said. "As a state, we need to think outside the box."

During Forrester's tenure in the Senate, the Legislature has withheld some $150 million in revenue sharing and $58 million in proceeds from the Rooms and Meals Tax from cities and towns while reducing and then eliminating the state's contribution to the New Hampshire retirement System for municipal employees.

"When I could make a difference, I have tried my best to restore that funding," she said, stressing that as governor restoring the funding would be a priority. "I would be advocating for cities and towns," she declared.

Forrester has considerable experience and success promoting economic and community development at the municipal and regional level. She said that during her first 100 days she intends to "meet with local officials and discuss with them what can the state do to make their communities economically viable." At the same time, she said that state officials can explain to their local counterparts "what they may be doing unintentionally to hold back their own growth."

As governor, Forrester said she would aggressively recruit businesses to relocate to New Hampshire while streamlining the processes of licensing and permitting required to open a business. While easing regulation, she favors lowering the business profits tax, business enterprise tax and interest and dividends tax as well as deferring a share of the statewide property tax for businesses that invest in expansion and applying 25 percent of budget surpluses to reducing taxes and attracting business.

Forrester stressed that universal access to health care depends on a dynamic economy with full employment at living wages. She favors a offering consumers more control over their care by fostering increased competition among both insurance carriers and medical providers while requiring transparent pricing, introducing health savings accounts and opening an interstate market for health insurance.

Among those who brokered the expansion of the Medicaid program, Forrester voted against reauthorizing the program this year when when the legislation failed to include an assurance assure that recipients would be required to hold gainful employment or perform community
service. She said that as governor she would veto any reauthorization of the program that failed to include a work requirement or imposed costs on taxpayers.

To address the epidemic of opiate addiction, Forrester called for stricter measures to curb drug trafficking and expanded capacity for treatment and recovery. She said that if the expanded Medicaid program, which includes a benefit for substance abuse, is curtailed, "The private insurance companies will have to pick up the slack." She said that if the state is unable to provide sufficient capacity for treatment and recovery in the near term, she would enter relationships with facilities in other states.

The challenge for Forrester has been to convert her regional popularity into statewide appeal.

"I knew it would be a challenge for me," she said of her relative lack of name recognition, which a recent poll conducted by the Survey Center at the University of New Hampshire for WMUR-TV pegged at 31 percent among likely voters. Moreover, her war chest is the leanest of the four major candidates. Last week, her campaign reported receipts of $237,053 and expenditures of $192,044, leaving cash in hand of $45,009, much less than her principal rivals.

Meanwhile, last week Forrester received the blessing of The Union Leader, the most widely circulated newspaper in the state. After interviewing all the all the candidates, publisher Joe McQuaid wrote that despite her lack of fame and wealth Forrester offers Republlicans "the best chance they have had in years to take back the governor's office.

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