Christmas Village: Annual celebration of the season at the Laconia Community Center is open all weekend

LACONIA — The 41st annual Christmas Village opened its doors at the Community Center last night and there were many familiar faces helping make that happen, including long-time volunteer Sharon Cavanaugh, who is in charge of the group which greets children and their families at the entryway and keeps them busy and entertained until they make their way upstairs to enjoy cookies and lemonade before meeting with Santa Claus.
As children gather to wait their turn to enter the village, they are entertained with face painting, games, crafts, movies and even "Santa's Jail" until it is their turn to go upstairs.
"It's so amazing to see their faces light up when they come inside and see what's here," said Cavanaugh of the young children, filled with anticipation, as they enter the magical world created at Christmas Village.
She said that the Bolduc brothers — Armand and Ernie — and their friend Bob Hamel, who each year have led the team of volunteers, are an indispensable part of continuing the tradition of the village.
"Armand is the person who makes everything happen," says Cavanaugh.
Ernie Bolduc says that it takes around 8,000 man hours to set up and take down the village and that there are 60 to 70 elves who help construct the village and provide hospitality for the estimated 2,500 children who attend each year.
Also helping out were Sylvia and Dave Detscher, who have been running the Christmas Cafe, where cookies and pink lemonade are served, for over 20 years.
"We're sort of crowd control. We watch over the elves serving and keep the line moving. When we first brought our children here thee were no chairs and tables for the children to sit down at while they had their cookies. Whoever thought of setting up the tables certainly had a good idea," said Sylvia.
Ashley Paquin, 16, attends Inter-Lakes High School in Meredith, and is in her third year as a Christmas Village volunteer. "It's a lot of fun. My parents brought me here when I was little and I've always thought it was a great experience. I enjoy volunteering and being a part of something like this," said Paquin.
Ray Lakeman, 85, says says he was been a volunteer for about eight years and is one of three elves whose job it is to sand down the rough edges of wooden ornaments which are then painted with the names of he children as they pass through the workshop area.
"It's worth it to come here and give back to the community." says Lakeman, who says that he still has fond memories from his childhood of the crowds of people Christmas shopping in Downtown Laconia before urban renewal. "There were no malls back then and you'd run into everybody you knew on Friday nights out shopping. It was a beautiful sight, especially when there was a little snow," said Lakeman.
Christmas Village will be open to the public tonight from 6 until 8 p.m.; and on Saturday and Sunday , from 2 until 5 p.m. The village will be open to senior citizens only on Saturday between 10 a.m. and noon, and to those with disabilities on Sunday between 10 a.m. and noon.

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Insurance coverage at issue in wrongful death suit brought by mother of Tilton man who was electrocuted

LACONIA — The insurance company that could be liable for a payout in connection with a Meredith man's death is asking a judge to determine the rights and obligations of the parties with respect to various policies that were issued.

Ronald E. Shaw Jr., 29, was electrocuted as he was putting air in a tire on his skidder when the boom portion of a grapple being used to load piled logs onto a truck came into contract with overhead power lines, according to a wrongful death suit filed by his mother, Jane Armstrong of Tilton.

David Thompson of Wentworth, who was loading logs when the fatal accident occurred in Benton on Aug. 10, 2015, has denied that his truck either hit the electrical line, or came in close proximity to it.

In August, the suit was amended to add Christopher Savage of Moultonborough as a defendant, claiming as general contractor he was negligent in hiring, training and supervising his workers. Shaw and Kevin Bliss, both of Meredith, were hired as skidders. The men were not co-employees, but separate individual logging contractors.

In arguing for dismissal of the suit, Attorney Frank Spinella of Manchester, said no facts are alleged to support any breach of duty, that Savage knew or should have known that Thompson presented any risk.

"The allegations are merely conclusory, no facts are plead suggesting that David Thompson lacked any competence, must less that Christopher Savage knew this," Attorney Spinella, wrote. Savage was not at the work site when the accident occurred.

On Nov. 28, Judge James O'Neill granted the parties request for additional time to respond to Savage's motion to dismiss. Attorney Hutchins told the court additional time was needed as Savage was scheduled to be questioned under oath on Dec. 5.

Information obtained during the deposition, Hutchins said, would allow him to evaluate the insurance coverage defenses and any potential settlement offer. According to Hutchins' court filings, he and the insurers for Savage are discussing potential settlement scenarios.

On Oct. 20, Merchants Mutual Insurance Company filed for declaratory judgment asking the court to decide whether they are obligated to defend Savage or pay a claim.

The company asserts that it has no obligation to the newest defendant as it issued a commercial general liability policy to "Savage Communications LLC," based on an application for insurance that described the business as performing "underground cable construction for cable company lines."

While Merchants also issued a commercial auto coverage policy to Savage Communications, they argue it contains an exclusion for injuries occurring during "loading" or unloading" activities.

In a Nov. 21 filing, attorney Armstrong argues that coverage should be afforded Savage under one of both of the Merchants' policies, as certain policy language and terms upon which the petitioner relies is ambiguous.

He asserts that public policy favors the extension of coverage, and that the reasonable expectations of Savage included coverage for the underlying claims, under one of both of the Merchants' policies.

Trail of man accused of raping former girlfriend starts Monday

LACONIA — A Superior Court judge ruled Thursday that a Gilford man accused of raping his former girlfriend cannot let the jury see the family court records that show that he tried to get custody of a child he and the alleged victim have together.

The judge ruled that while Sargent Place resident Carroll Thompson's statements to family court cannot be introduced as such, his attorney will be allowed to question the alleged victim about Thompson's attempts to gain custody of their child.

In those family court pleadings, Thompson said that his reason for wanting custody of his child was because the alleged victim was a drug user. He intended on using them as a reason why she would fabricate a claim of rape against him.

While Thompson says the records are within the hearsay exceptions allowed at trial, the exception only applies if the person who made them is unavailable for the trial. The court determined that by claiming his Fifth Amendment Right against self-incrimination, Thompson made himself unavailable and shouldn't be allowed to benefit from creating his own unavailability.

Thompson also wanted recordings left by the alleged victim on his phone to be heard by the jury, but the court denied that too, saying that the statements don't indicate that she intended to make up allegations against Thompson.

The alleged sexual assault occurred 10 day after he recorded the messages.

Specifically, the court said that since it was the defendant who recorded them, it is possible he made statements during the conversation that were favorable to himself.

"Similarly, the (alleged) victim could also have made false statements with the intention of inciting an emotional reaction from the defendant," wrote the judge, who determined the recordings were unfairly prejudicial and don't include any direct evidence. He determined that the only reason to let a jury hear them would be to appeal to their sympathies, which is not allowed by the rules of evidence.

Thompson's jury trial is scheduled to begin Monday morning.


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