Bakers respond to call for cookies after 2,400 taken from car bound for Christmas Village

LACONIA — Although a Grinch made off with 200 dozen cookies destined for Christmas Village, people from across the city quickly fired up their ovens Thursday and filled their shopping bags to ensure that no child visiting the annual festival will go without.

Patty Derocher had collected the cookies, packed them into her car then stopped at City Hall on Wednesday on her way to deliver them to the Community Center, only to find the cookies gone when she returned to her car. She called her friend Mary Huntoon at the City Clerk's Office who said "I took the ball and ran with it." Thursday morning an email asking for donations of cookies made the rounds of city offices while word was also posted Facebook. "Don't you mess with our Christmas Village," Huntoon said., adding that her family was baking in the afternoon and she planned to bake that night.

Nancy Brown at the City Manager's Office said that soon packages of home baked and store bought cookies of all varieties began flowing into her office. "They just keep coming in," she said, pointing to the stack of boxed cookies in the Mayor's Office by the middle of the afternoon. Patrick's Pub donated 50 dozen. "The comity is pulling together," Brown said.

Meanwhile, firefighters tended the double oven at Central Station throughout the day. "It was pretty tough for us to get it all done with all the calls and inspections in between," said Lieutenant Jay Ellingson. "We had to keep an eye on the oven and not set the fire to the fire house." Altogether the firefighters had baked 47 dozen cookies by late afternoon while Susan Matheson of Warren-Wentworth Emergency Medical Service spent her day off baking another 10 dozen.

"This is a huge event," Ellingson said. "When you go with your kids, the hot chocolate and cookies, that's all part of it. Without the cookies, there goes some of the magic."

Local attorney opening Redneck Potters shop with open house on Friday night

LACONIA — With her father an artist and her mother a musician, it's not hard to understand where local attorney Jen Brooks gets her artistic talent.

A potter, Brooks is opening Redneck Potters in the same suite as her law offices at Eight Gables shopping center (585 Union Avenue) this Friday night.

Brooks said she came to pottery early when her father, an artist and eventual dean at Plymouth State College, found a foot operated potter's wheel and she started making things.

"It was fun, but I found it hard to keep my clay in the center," she said.

Brooks attended Holderness School, where her mother was the music director, and said that at the time the school had a very small arts program but it included a pottery section where she trained under Bertha Waters, who was the wife of famous New Hampshire wood engraver Herbert Waters.

She said she earned the Art Award at Holderness School for three of her four years there and went on to attend the University of New Hampshire on a Fine Arts Scholarship.

Because she loved her work-study job cooking in the faculty lounge, she changed her major to Hotel Administration and worked for a chef who was from the Culinary Arts Institute in Newark, New Jersey.

"I fell in love with cooking," she said.

After graduation she was the food and beverage manager at the Ashworth in Hampton and later branched out on her own. She said her solo venture didn't prove to be what she had hoped so she worked in various kitchens while she went to law school at night.

Back permanently in Laconia, she said she bought her own electric potters wheel and worked out an arrangement with Mike Verhoeks — she would turn her own pottery and use his glazes and kiln.

"I finally bought a kiln in 2014," Brooks said, noting she found it on Ebay and went to Long Island to bring it back.

Most of what will be on display in her pottery shop is from that time forward. Also on display are some smaller items like Christmas Tree ornaments that are made by her wife Joyce Dunwoody.

Brooks loves blues and earth tones. She said her glazes are based on how much of each one she can procure because she is "a dipper and not a painter," two potting techniques that create a different looks.

All of Brooks's collection is made with the intent of being used practically.

"There is no lead,  they are dishwasher safe, oven safe, and microwave safe," she said.

"I make functional items that people can use," she said.

The grand opening of Redneck Potters is Friday from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Anyone who attends will get a non-expiring 10 percent off coupon as well as enjoy snacks and soft drinks.

Library now looks for AG's office to approve donation of trust funds to Colonial Theater renovation effort

LACONIA — The trustees of the Laconia Public Library have contributed $200,000 in trust funds toward the restoration of the Colonial Theater and in return will be entitled to use of the auditorium as specified by a memorandum of understanding between the trustees and the City Council and the Belknap Economic Development Corporation (BEDC).

With the renovation and expansion of the library, the Prescott Auditorium was lost, leaving the library without sufficient space to host events drawing significant numbers of people. The board of trustees, reads the memorandum, "has unanimously determined that the loss of the former Prescott Auditorium has diminished its ability to provide services to the Laconia Community." Consequently, the memorandum continues, the board "has unanimously deemed it prudent to contribute funds toward the renovation of the Colonial Theater." The city and the library agreed that "it is in the best interest of the community to make the public auditorium available to the library."

The memorandum stipulates that the library shall have access to the auditorium for a minimum of 12 days a year and beyond that its use of the facility "shall not be unreasonably be denied." Although the library will not be charged rent, it will reimburse the operator of the auditorium "normal and customary operating expenses" for its use on a per diem basis. The memorandum guarantees that the library shall have the same level of access to the auditorium for 50 years.

The library's memorandum has been approved by the BEDC board of directors and the City Council and now awaits approval by the Charitable Trust Division of the New Hampshire Department of Justice, the agency that oversees the library's endowment from which the funds donated to the theater project were drawn.

Meanwhile, BEDC announced that the public capital campaign has raised more than $1.3 million toward its goal of $2 million to complete the $14.6 million financial package that will fund restoration of the theatre. During the next few months the campaign aims to raise another $700,000 in private contributions from local businesses and residents.

May Ed Engler and Gail Batstone, general manager of the Inn at Mill Falls, who are co-chairs of the campaign, said in a prepared statement that "we appreciate the generous support of our business community and citizens. The Colonial Theater project," they continued, "is truly a community effort that will have a positive community and economic impact for today's and future generations in Laconia and the greater Lakes Region. We encourage the public to consider making donation to the project now."

One element of the public capital campaign is the opportunity to purchase a seat in the theater, which will bear a plaque recognizing the donor. For information on other opportunities for making donations visit 609mainstreet.org or call (603) 524-3057.

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