Belknap Mill Society adds staff and trustees, plans capital campaign

LACONIA — The Belknap Mill Society, after choosing not to sell the historic building and undergoing several changes of leadership, has added two employees and four trustees as it prepares to mount a capital campaign aimed at addressing the needs and ensuring the future of the oldest unaltered brick textile mill in the country.

Allison Ambrose, president of the society, said yesterday that Beth San Soucie, who served as managing director for the past year, has been succeeded by Tara Shore, who as administrator will oversee day-to-day operations, and Jennifer McLean, who will mange programs and schedule events while continuing to serve as coordinator of Leadership Lakes Region.

Meanwhile, membership of the Board of Trustees, which had shrunk to six, has been increased to ten with addition of Jennifer Anderson, director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, MaryLee Gorham-Waterman, executive director of the New Hampshire Humane Society, Michael Schofield of the Huot Technical Center and Karon Thibeault of Bank of New Hampshire.

Ambrose said that Anderson, who is serving as secretary of the society, is preparing its newsletter. Gorham-Waterman and Thibeault, she said, will turn their hands to the fundraising campaign, while Schofield will seek to develop a partnership between the society and the Huot Technical Center to assist with the repair and maintenance of the mill.

At the same time, the society has convened an advisory board consisting of Mayor Ed Engler, three former mayors — Rod Dyer, Paul Fitzgerald and Matt Lahey — Mark Warren, Pastor of the Grace Capital Church and Justin Slattery, executive director of the Belknap Economic Development Council. Ambrose said that the advisory board is working with the trustees to develop a vision and plan for the future of the mill.

The financial condition of the mill, which last February led the executive committee of society to approach the city about purchasing the building, remains fragile. Ambrose said that generous donations from Aavid Thermalloy and the Grace Capital Church amounting to some $30,000, and a grant have enabled the society to complete the replacement of the cupola and finial as well as provide what she called "breathing room" by defraying some operating expenses.

However, installation of a high efficiency boiler, replacement of windows, repairs to the roof, refinishing of floors and improvements to security systems, including a new front door, represent estimated costs of $175,000. Ambrose said that in addition to strengthening its fundraising efforts, the society will seek to rent office space on the second floor, which has been vacant for several years. Income from the rental of two law offices in the building is a significant share of operating income.

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Gilford H.S. to host New England Music Festival

GILFORD — The annual New England Music Festival Association announced this weekend that Gilford High School will host the 2016 event.

According to Gilford High School principal Anthony Sperazzo, the top 450 high school musicians in New England will be selected for performances in Gilford on March 17, 18, and 19, 2016.

"This is a huge honor for out schools and community," said Superintendent Kent Hemingway in an email shared with the School Board and other members of the Gilford School District community. The email was made public at last night's School Board meeting.

Hemingway estimates that thousands of people will come to the Lakes Region to hear the performances and to support the young musicians.

"We are sharing this information with local businesses as this will be another busy weekend in our area toward the end of ski season," Hemingway continued, adding he plans on contacting area hotels and restaurants in preparation for the festival.

According to the NEMFA website, "through their outstanding evaluations in one of those solo and ensemble festivals, New England's most gifted music students are invited to join together in the New England Band, Chorus and Orchestra at the three day festival, hosted annually by a regional high school... Lead by some of our nation's finest conductors, three days of rehearsals culminate in a stellar concert by all three groups, attended by parents and supporters alike."

A tentative schedule provided at last night's School Board meeting indicated the rehearsals will begin on March 17. Some of the nation's best conductors will work with the musicians as they prepare for two performances on March 19 – a 2 p.m. concert for band and orchestra and a 4:30 p.m. performance for chorus.

Information about ticket sales and the need for host families will be forthcoming as the school district learns more about NEMFA's decision to have it in Gilford.

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Golfers in same foursome make back-to-back hole in ones at Laconia Country Club

LACONIA — Other than the fact that they're both retired and love to play golf, Tom Byrne and Dave Clark don't have a lot in common nor have they known each other all that long. But on September 2 the two forever linked their names by making back-to-back hole-in-ones on the 7th at Laconia Country Club.

The foursome that morning consisted of Byrne and Ken Wilson playing against Clark and his brother Chuck. All four were playing pretty when Clark teed up his ball and used a three wood to ace the downhill par 3 that parallels Elm Street.

"When his went in first, I kidded him about taking his ball out to leave room for mine," said Byrne yesterday, when the two got together after playing 18 holes in the senior league.

"And then I hit my ball with a six iron and it went in," Byrne said.

They all started jumping up and down said Chuck Clark, yesterday. "They all had a real good time."

Member Bob Barry said he was playing in a foursome that was just ahead of Clark and Byrne and heard all of the yelling. With two holes-in-one to his own credit, Barry said he figures someone had gotten one but was shocked to hear there were two.

"I read that the odds on that are 17-million to 1," he said.

According to golf expert Brent Kelley writing for About Sports, "The odds of an amateur golfer getting a hole-in-one are 12,500-to-1. For two amateurs each making one in the same round as a foursome, the odds climb to 1.3 million-to-1. For two members of a foursome to ace the same hole in the same round, they skyrocket to 26 million-to-1."

Byrne just moved to Laconia and joined the country club in November of 2014. He said this is his third hole-in-one, having scored two at the Eagle Creek Golf and Country Club in Naples, Florida.

Clark is a fixture at the local club. He joined in 1958 and has been a member every since. He noted he was a caddy in 1948.

Clark has scored four holes-in-one in his lifetime — one at Bonita Springs in Florida and three on his home course — one on the 4th hole, one on the 14th hole and, now, one on the 7th hole.

Both men estimate the distance from the "white" tee to the pin on September 2 was about 162 yards and both said they were playing well that day with Byrne shooting an 84 and Clark shooting either an 84 or an 85.

"This is the strangest thing you can imagine," said LCC Pro Todd Rollins. "I'm pretty sure this has never happened before in Laconia."

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