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Need an alligator seat for that chopper?

LACONIA — Known as "The Seat Doctor", Mike Miller has restored and replaced motorcycle seats for the past 25 years, using the hides of a handful of exotic animals.

Miller, who works out of Newark, Delaware and Melbourne, Florida when he is not on the road, said his family was among the first to settle in the Sunshire State, when it was swampy wilderness. His grandfather began hunting alligators and selling hides around 1900 and his father owns and operates a tannery.

Miller said that he began with riding saddles and leather products, but soon specialized in motorcycle seats. He offers seats covered with the hides of alligator, crocodile, ostrich elephant, shark and stingray, stressing that all his materials are acquired in compliance with the "Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora," known for short at "CITES."

The alligator comes from Florida, crocodile from Columbia, elephant and ostrich from South Africa and shark and stingray from the Gulf of Mexico. He said he uses both the belly and back of alligators and crocodiles, along with the back, belly, ears and trunk of elephants. Prices for the exotic seats begin at $1,000. Apart from the exotics, Miller also fashions seats from medical gel, molded and fitted to the shape, size and weight of individual motorcyclists. When working at rallies, Miller finishes a seat in two or three hours and returns seats from his workshop within 48 hours.

"I get to all the major rallies — Daytona, Sturgis, Johnstown — all of them," Miller said, adding that the 91st running of Laconia Motorcycle Week is his 14th rally, most of which he has spent at the same spot at the top of the hill behind the Weirs Beach Lobster Pound. "This is one of my favorite places," he said.


CAPTION: Mike Miller, who has fashioned motorcycle seats from the hides of exotic animals at the lat 14 rallies, stands alongside a rack of alligator skins at his stand at the Weirs Beach Lobster Pound. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch)

Last Updated on Friday, 20 June 2014 01:37

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Rib Whisperer adds Lone Star personality to Motorcycle Week

LACONIA — The History Channel chose Motorcycle Week as one of five stops for its "cross county cookout, featuring the "Ultimate Smoker & Grill," to promote its programming by offering barbecue, games and prizes."We brought this fine weather with us," drawled Trace Arnold, known as "The Rib Whisperer" because wherever he goes everywhere and shares his barbecue someone can be heard asking a friend "have you tried the ribs?"

"We brought this fine weather with us (from Texas)," Arnold said. "They told me it rained up here and to bring my slicker and boots. I knew if I brought 'em I wouldn't need 'em, so I brought 'em."

Arnold said he had cooked for 30 years, but conceived of what became the "Ultimate Smoker and Grill" while working on a dude ranch in Justin, Texas in 1997. He built a large smoker and five years later, enlarged and improved, it took to the road. The trailer carrying the smoker and grill is 55-feet long and with the tractor makes an 80-foot-long rig. Arnold said that the smoker and grill can cook up to a ton of meat at one time, which amounts to 1,000 hot dogs, 500 hamburgers or 200 16-ounce rib-eye steaks. "It'll feed a whole bunch of people," he said, describing his team of five as "very efficient.".

Brandishing a tray of warm jalapeno peppers stuffed with pulled pork and wrapped in bacon, Arnold said "try one. They're fat free. They're full of fat and they're free." He said that sausages from the smoker are served between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. during the rally.

While Arnold and his smoker are the centerpiece of the History Channel promotion, they are accompanied by a claw game for American Pickers and Gator Tag for Swamp People and a raffle for a custom chopper.

Arnold said he was enjoying his spell in Laconia and exclaimed "the worst time is always the best we've ever had."

The Ultimate Smoker & Grill is located at the top of the Lobster Pound complex at Weirs Beach.W

CAPTION: Trace Arnold, "the Rib Whisperer," fishes a rack of ribs from the "Ultimate Smoker and Grill," centerpiece of the cross country cookout sponsored by the History Channel. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Michael Kitch).

Last Updated on Friday, 20 June 2014 01:26

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3-time champ downs 2-pound burrito in 1:11 to win Motorcycle Week contest in downtown Laconia

LACONIA — Jon Churchill of Laconia continued his domination of the Bike Week Downtown Burrito Eating contest by devouring a two-pound burrito in just one minute and 11 seconds Thursday afternoon, outpacing his nearest competitor by 34 seconds.
It was the third straight year that Churchill has won the event and his winning times have improved each year, from 2:44 in 2012 to two minutes last year.
''It's hard when you get to a certain point. Controlling your gag reflex is the most difficult part,'' says Churchill, who works as a machine operator at New Hampshire Ball Bearing and had to punch in at 3:30 yesterday afternoon, abut 90 minutes after the eating competition, which attracted 16 contestants got underway.
The second best time of the day was a 1:45 performance by Keil Ackerson of Laconia, who was off to a good start with several good bites but slowed down at the end. He said he plans on returning next year.
Churchill, who was wearing an ''I conquered anorexia'' T-shirt and said that he weighs abut 360 pounds, was cheered on by his wife, Ioana, who works at Shaw's in Gilford, and his five-year-old daughter, Scarlett. The couple also have a five-month-old son, Nolan.
He said that in recent years he has watched the Man Vs. Food Show on the Food Channel which stars Andrew Richman, who was at last year's Bike Week doing a travel show and disappointed Burrito Eating Contest watchers who had expected that he would show up with a crew and film the competition.
Churchill was presented with a cash prize of $100 by Reuben Bassett, co-owner of Burrito Me, one four businesses located in the historic Laconia Railroad Station which sponsored the Bike Week Downtown event. Other sponsors included Prescott's Florists, Kramer and Hall Goldsmiths and Franklin Savings Bank.
A Custom Bike Show was held throughout the day at the station which drew some spectacular looking custom bikes, including a 2014 custom owned by Mike Yeo and Spartacus, an elegantly decorated 2012 owned by Christian Rivard and John Harrison.
There was also a Slow Race in which competitors tried to keep their bikes upright without using their feet to maintain its balance while staying within their designated lanes on a 40 foot course. Local competitors who tried and failed were Bob Fay, retired operator of the Lakeport Dam, and Bill Bickford, owner along with his wife, Sally, of Kitchen Cravings restaurant in Gilford.



burrito 1

Keil Ackerson of Laconia works on a two-pound burrito at a burrito eating contest held as part of Bike Week Downtown at the Laconia Railroad Station. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)

burrito 2

John Churchill of Laconia won the Bike Week Downtown Burrito Eating contest for the third straight year by devouring a two-pound burrito in one minute and 11 seconds. He is shown accepting the $100 cash prize from Reuben Bassett, co-owner of Burrito Me. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

burrito 3

Competitors in the Slow Race held at the Laconia Railroad Station as part of Bike Week Downtown try and keep their cycles moving while avoiding using their feet to balance themselves and staying within their designated lanes. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

burrito 4

One of the entries in the Custom Bike Show held at the Laconia Railroad Station as part of Bike Week Downtown was a 2014 custom bike owned by Mike Yeo. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)


Last Updated on Friday, 20 June 2014 01:12

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Bridgewater & Hebron school withdrawal study will dive into details of a breakup

BRISTOL — Voters of Bridgewater and Hebron will learn the costs and possible tradeoffs of withdrawing from the Newfound Area School District in September, according to the timeline set on June 16.
The Bridgewater-Hebron Withdrawal Study Committee expects to meet again toward the end of August after its education and finance subcommittees have a chance to pull together the data they need to determine those impacts. Committee Chair Ruby Hill of Danbury will set the exact date once the subcommittees indicate that they will be ready.
Patrick Moriaty of Hebron serves as chair of both subcommittees and he reported that a scheduling error for the education subcommittee held up the first meeting; and the finance committee could not proceed with its work until it has an idea of the educational model that will be used. However, the superintendent and business manager have provided some initial information that will allow the subcommittees to move ahead quickly when they next meet.
"Stacy (Buckley, superintendent) and Mike (Limanni, business manager) have been very helpful," Moriaty said, "and we've had a lot of good discussion."
Limanni said there are a lot of options to consider and noted that he and Buckley currently are working to determine the costs associated with meeting the state's minimum standards. The education subcommittee then will have a baseline cost to which they will be able to add in other programs.
The Bridgewater-Hebron Village School currently serves kindergarten through Grade 5; the subcommittee's assumption is that the school will serve K-8 if the two towns withdraw. There currently are 158 students at the school, of which 59 come from the two towns. Fifty students from Alexandria attend the school, along with 21 from Groton, 15 from Bristol, nine from New Hampton, and four from Danbury.
The first option to consider is that the school would serve only students from Bridgewater and Hebron. With the three additional grade levels, the population would be about 100 students. It currently costs $2.4 million to operate the school and Limanni said that cost would not necessarily be lower with a lower population, as the school still would need to staff enough teachers for the classes, even if the class size dropped to seven students.
The new school district optionally could accept other students on a tuition basis to more closely approach the school's capacity and reduce the per-pupil cost. However, students from the two towns would need to attend either Newfound or Plymouth high school, adding to the cost for those towns. That assumes those school districts would accept the Bridgewater-Hebron students.
While School Administrative Unit 48 Superintendent Mark Halloran has said Plymouth would welcome the students, he has not provided a tuition figure which prompted Vincent Paul Migliore of Bridgewater to suggest that the committee request that information so it can be factored into the costs. Rick Alpers of Bristol made that motion, directing Buckley to make the request of Halloran.
Jim Phelps of Danbury asked what would happen if the voters of the two towns decided it was not to their advantage to withdraw. Bridgewater Selectman Terry Murphy said they had agreed that both towns would need to approve it for the withdrawal to move forward. If either or both towns vote after learning the facts that it is not feasible to withdraw, that would put an end to the matter, he said.
Hill asked for other committee members to step up to serve on the finance subcommittee, saying she had noticed that only one member — Alpers — was not from Bridgewater or Hebron. Christina Goodwin of Groton agreed to serve on the subcommittee.
There was some discussion at the beginning of the meeting about the current lease on the school. The Bridgewater-Hebron Village District had built and maintains the school, leasing it to the Newfound Area School District for $1 per year in a 10-year agreement. There was some concern about whether the school board would relinquish the lease.
"If the school board doesn't want to release the Bridgewater-Hebron Village School from the lease, we should know that up front," Migliore said.
Hill said that concern was premature, as the committee has not yet decided whether to recommend the withdrawal.
Murphy noted that the lease is worded in such a way that either party can terminate it; or, if both sides agree, they can modify the agreement.
Should the two towns vote to move forward with the withdrawal, the school board would submit the proposal to the NH Department of Education for approval at the beginning of November so the State Board can hear the matter on Nov. 16.

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 June 2014 12:57

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