Pumpkin Festival finds new home in Laconia

LACONIA — On Saturday, Oct. 24 the City on the Lakes will be aglow with the flames of thousands of jack-o-lanterns when Laconia plays host to New Hampshire's 25th Annual Pumpkin Festival.

Ruth Sterling of Sterling Design & Communications, who heads the management team for the event, made the announcement yesterday before a gaggle of print and electronic media in the rotunda of the Railroad Station at Veterans Square.

On Wednesday the directors of Let It Shine, Inc., the nonprofit corporation that has produced the event in Keene since 2011, voted to move the festival to Laconia. At the same time, the organization announced its intent to coordinate with towns hosting their festivals on October 17 to "(preserve) refrigerate and deliver their pumpkins to Laconia as part of a statewide effort to rise above and heal."

Sterling also announced that Zippo, makers of the lighters that light the 30,000 plus pumpkins, has committed to continue as the presenting sponsor of the festival. She said that the arrangement with Laconia is for 2015. "We'll see what happens and take one year at a time," she added.

Let It Shine reached its decision 20 days after the Keene City Council voted 13 to 1 to deny it a license to stage the event in the city where it has been held every year since 1991. City officials chose to suspend the festival after rioting on the campus of Keene State College coincided with the festival last October, raising concerns about the cost of ensuring public safety at future events.

Recalling that the event has set world records, won a cash prize, been named best specialty food event and inspired Newtown, Connecticut to seek solace with a similar festival, Sterling asked "if someone told you it was over, what would you do?" She answered "we'd hope for a miracle" and declared "that's just what happened." She explained that Charlie St. Clair, executive director of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, determined that "not on my watch" would the festival be lost.

As the Keene City Council debated the future of the festival, St. Clair spoke on its behalf, drawing on his experience with Motorcycle Week to assure officials that the event could be held without risking the safety of the public. When the council decided otherwise, St. Clair, together with Karmen Gifford, executive director of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, and Amy Landers of the Lakes Region Tourism Association, offered Laconia as a venue for the festival.

Meanwhile, more than 15 cities and towns, including Nashua, Portsmouth and Claremont, also expressed interest in hosting the event. But, after spending a day in Laconia a week ago, Sterling announced "right now, thanks to Charlie St. Clair, all roads lead to Laconia," a remark confirmed by her announcement yesterday.

Mayor Ed Engler, who was accompanied by four of the six city councilors — David Bownes (Ward 2), Brenda Baer (Ward 4), Bob Hamel (Ward 5) and Armand Bolduc (Ward 6) — and had spoken with councilors Ava Doyle (Ward 1) and Henry Lipman (Ward 3) , said that the council unanimously and enthusiastically endorsed and supported the festival. He noted that when children ask for things, parents often reply "we'll see," but insisted "our attitude in Laconia is not 'we'll see' but 'will do.'"

Gifford said that the chamber of commerce will hold the special events permit for the festival. The chamber serves members in 18 municipalities in the region and she expects to engage businesses and nonprofit organizations in setting the agenda for the festival. "We want to carve out opportunities for all our local businesses and nonprofits," she said.

"Our first goals," said Sterling, "are a spectacular, safe, family-friendly event bringing scores of visitors to enjoy the Laconia downtown and surroundings."

5 Gilford residents volunteer to serve on solid waste disposal study committee

GILFORD — Selectmen named the five members of Solid Waste Committee created in January to primarily examine the options available to the town and its trash and recycling needs.

The committee includes Kevin Leandro, Kevin Roy, William Knightly, retired Public Works Director Sheldon Morgan and Selectman Richard Grenier.

Gilford is a member of the Concord Regional Solid Waste Resource Recovery Cooperative. The town partners with the city of Laconia in the use and management of the Laconia Transfer Station, which serves as the collecting point for trash bound for the cooperative's incinerator.

Gilford operates its own recycling facility on Kimball Road where there is room for expansion.

The committee was created in the wake of selectmen trying nearly double the so-called tipping fees to town residents in 2013 who pushed back. Their fear was the private haulers would use the rate increase as an excuse to increase their rates and trash disposal would ultimately cost residents and taxpayers alike more in the long run.
In October of 2014 Selectmen raised the cost of tipping fees to Gilford from $30 to $45 per ton with no objections. The idea of a committee was discussed again and formed officially in January of 2015.

Solid waste or garbage collection costs can be broken down into three-parts: the cost of getting the garbage to the Laconia Transfer Station, the cost of getting the garbage from Laconia to the incinerator in Penacook, and the cost of burning it.
In Gilford, individual residents bear the full expense of getting the garbage to Laconia. The town doesn't have a transfer station or curbside pickup and residents either take their garbage to the Laconia station or pay a private trash hauler to take it.
The costs of transporting the garbage to Penacook and disposing of it was $66.80 per ton and is called a tipping fee. This fee is projected to increase to about $70 for the calender year 2015 said Dunn.
The town of Gilford pays the upfront costs to Laconia and a portion of the revenue collected from the sale of coupons to residents who haul their own or by haulers who pay by the ton to dump their loads is returned to the town.
The town disposes of about 5,000 tons of trash per year. For accounting purposes, the town budgets $350,000 annually as an expense and creates a revenue offset for the money returned to Gilford by Laconia once the fees are paid.
The committee is expected to finish its work by the end of the year and make a report to the selectman about their recommendations about garbage disposal, recycling, dumpsters at the town docks, licensing of trash haulers and other items.

Trash can fires in Laconia

LACONIA — Police are investigating two suspicious trash-can fires that occurred within an hour of each other in the city's south end early yesterday morning.

The first receptacle fire was reported at 12:50 a.m. on South Main Street, near the intersection of Grant Street.

The second was reported an hour later inside the fenced area at Wyatt Park.

Both were extinguished quickly by firefighters.

Anyone with any information is asked to call the Laconia Police at 524-5252 or the Laconia Crime Line at 527-1717.