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Bond between innkeepers & guests forged over decades of Motorcycle Weeks at the Weirs

LACONIA — Although Ava and the Blonds sounds like the name of a 1950's pop band, this group of gal-pals doesn't know how to sing — but they do know how to party.

On any given night during Motorcycle Week, the Blonds, ring-leader Ava Doyle and all their husbands can be found somewhere on the property of Sun Valley Cottages at the Weirs — the place where they all met and became friends for life.

"We really are like a big family," said Doyle who loves Bike Week for bringing the entire gang together at her family business at least once annually. "We've been through weddings, funerals, birthdays, and graduations."

The Doyles bought Sun Valley Cottages 22-years ago after relocating to the Lakes Region from Louisiana. Ava said her husband Dave worked for an oil drilling company that was facing some cut backs.

"He told them he'd leave if they relocated us to any place in the continental U.S.," said Ava yesterday. She said he grew up outside of Boston and used to vacation at the Squam Lakes as a child so this was where he wanted to be.

She said they initially had a deal to buy a bread-and-breakfast inn in the area but the deal fell through. "And I'm grateful for that everyday," Ava said.

They — Ava, Dave, two children, two dogs, a cat, and two hamsters — came to Laconia anyway, "like something from the Grapes of Wrath."

She said all of their worldly possessions except for the cars they were driving were in storage. She said the family found a landlord who would take them in and the next year they bought Sun Valley Cottages.

Over time the business flourished, there have been a number of upgrades along with one addition, and the Doyles have made some fast friends both from their guests and within the Laconia community.

Within a few years, the Blonds – Kathy, Jen, and Kim and two others – were regular fixtures during rally week and fast friends with the Doyles.

This year Kathy, Jen, and Kim are back. Jen is not blond any more but that doesn't mean she's not one of the Blonds.

According to Kim, the "Blonds" started years ago when all of the girls grabbed their lawn chairs and went to watch traffic go by on Route 3 — one of the favorite past times of most Bike Week attendees.

Husbands Dan, Ken, and Barry thought it would be funny to make a sign warning motorists not to feed them. "The Blonds" moniker stuck and so did the sign, which came with them every year since they made it.

Last year someone stole the sign but Barry warns they'll be a bigger and better one this year.

For prospective, since they have been coming to Laconia, Barry and Ken said between them hey have had 13 different motorcycles — all Harley Davidson's.

When asked how Bike Week has changed over the past 20 years, Doyle said the crowds are smaller and the attendees are older. Most of the couple's cabins are filled with the same people for years, including a group from New Brunswick called simply "the Canadians."

Ava, who represents Ward 1 on City Council, said she likes the way the police are handling Bike Week now. She remembered when she first opened, officers would walk up and down Route 3 in teams of two and harass people who were sitting by the side of the road.

"Now they just drive by and wave," she said.

She also said Bike Week has moved north since they first opened. "When we first came everything across the street was woods," she said, noting except for traffic, there wasn't much in her immediate area.

She also said young people would come from Rollercoaster Road and try to hangout and party on her corner.

She recalled one group of 16-year-olds dragging a couple of coolers of beer and offering her $50 to let them hang out on the corner of her property.

"I said no," she said.

All of them said the crowds are much smaller now and there are more cars than there used to be.

"Traffic used to be lined up all the way down the hill," said Barry.

But the thing most important to all of them has been the camaraderie and friendships that have developed and lasted over the past 20 years.

For Ava, this has been a tough year. Now in remission, she was diagnosed with cancer last fall and said the visits and phone calls from "the Blonds," "the Canadians," and all the rests of her guests and their families was one of the most important things that helped her though the winter.

"They were just so supportive," she said.

And now for this group of friends and as Barry would say, "Every night is a good night."

 

CUTLINE: Ava Doyle, (center left) the co-owner of the Sun Valley Cottages at the Weirs surrounded by long time guest and long-time friends Kim, Dan, Kathy, Barry, Jen and Ken outside Barry and Kathy's cabin yesterday afternoon. (Laconia Daily Sun photo/Gail Ober)

Last Updated on Thursday, 19 June 2014 01:04

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Number of N.H. House candidates in Belknap Co. just beat the filing deadline

GILFORD — Nancy Frost and Dorothy Piquado, both Democrats from Gilford, have filed as candidates for the New Hampshire House of Representatives in Belknap County, District 2, comprising Gilford and Meredith.

With their candidacies, together with those of incumbent Lisa DiMartino of Gilford and Sandra Mucci of Meredith, the Democrats have fielded a full slate in the district, where four seats are at stake in the general election.

Meanwhile, Hammond S. Brown of Gilmanton joined Deb Chase of Gilmanton to provide the Democrats with a full slate of candidates in District 5, consisting of Alton and Gilmanton, which returned two representatives.

On the Republican ticket, Russ Dumais of Gilford has filed in District 2, where the GOP will field six candidates — Gene Aldrich and George Hurt of Gilford and Michael Hatch, Herb Vadney and John Hodsdon of Meredith— for the four places on the general election ballot.

In District 5, Alton and Gilmanton, Peter Varney and Gerry Theodora of Alton and Mike Metcalfe of Gilmanton have filed, joining Joel Lambert of Alton and Dave Russell of Gilmanton, to increase the field from two to five for the two spots on the general election ballot.

In District 8, consisting of Alton, Barnstead and Gilmanton which together elect one representative, Ray Howard of Alton has entered the race to challenge Elaine Swinford in the Republican primary.

So far the GOP has not fielded a candidate in District 6, the town of Belmont, which returns two representatives.

Contested primaries will be settled on September 9.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 June 2014 12:54

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Electrical issue said to have been cause of fire at Gilmanton log home

GILMANTON — Fire Chief Joe Hempel said the cause of a two-alarm fire that heavily damaged a log home on Loon Pond Road Monday afternoon was electrical in nature and accidental.

He said firefighters peeled back sections of the metal roof and were able to chop through additional roofs to extinguish the blaze. He said the top part of the home is heavily damaged but it will be the determination of the insurance companies as to whether the home can be saved.

"It was a really pretty place," Hempel said.

Despite the heat, Hempel said no firefighters were injured fighting the blaze that kept them there from 4 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

In other fire department news, with the passage of a warrant article at last week's special town meeting to allow the department to purchase a 2014 fire engine, Hempel said the order is placed and the truck should be ready for delivery by late December or early January.

The article needed a second vote because of a technical issue regarding the regular SB-2 vote in March.

The new truck will retire Engine 1 which is at the Iron Works Fire Station and has been in service for 22 years. He said the department will sell the old truck through a fire truck auction.

He also said selectmen approved hiring a full-time firefighter two weeks ago and it was anticipated they would approve a second hire at their meeting last night.

Hempel said the latest hires will bring them up to full staff.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 June 2014 12:50

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Laconia's Hutchings now chairing planning commission

MEREDITH — Warren Hutchins, chairman of the Laconia Planning Board, was elected president of the board of executive directors of the Lakes Region Planning Commission at its annual meeting Monday night at the Inn at Church Landing.
Hutchins succeeds Stan Bean of Gilmanton, who has been chairman for three years and was presented with an award of appreciation for his service.
Bean said that the period he served as chairman was one of transitions, including the hiring of a new executive director, Jeffrey Hayes, to replace Kim Koulet, who had headed the regional planning group for 30 years.
''Historically the commission has focused on growth management,'' said Bean, who observed that a new era of community resiliency is underway in which growth has slowed considerably creating new challenges for Lakes Region communities.
He said that a new master plan for the area, which will be discussed in September, and is being prepared under the umbrella of the Granite State Future program, will be ''an important expression of what we value in the Lakes Region.''
Hutchins said that the plan will include goals and strategies which will help local communities adapt to changes in the area.
He praised Bean as a ''role model for all of us involved in our community'' and said he had spent more than 20 years involved in Gilmanton after retiring from the U.S. Forest Service in 1992.
He said that the commission is very fortunate to have Jeff Hayes as its new executive director, noting that he had previously been the executive director of North Country Council, which is another of the states nine regional planning commissions.
Awards of Excellence were presented to the City of Laconia for its bio retention system, installed near Paugus Bay, which captures and cleans runoff water of 80 to 90 percent of its hydrocarbons and 70 to 80 percent of nutrients.
Luke Powell, assistant director of Public Works for Laconia, who headed up the project, accepted the award on behalf of the city and said that one of the major challenges for all communities in the area is working with an aging and undersized infrastructure.
The Tuftonboro Conservation Commission also received an Award of Excellence for sponsoring a town-wide private well sampling event which involved 122 homes in its first round of testing and 183 in a second round.
The Kim Ayers Award for environmental advocacy was presented to Dan Paradis of Bristol, who has long been active with the Bristol Planning Board and the Pemigewasset River Local Advisory Committee.
Featured speaker at the event was Department of Resources and Economic Development Commission Jeffrey Rose, who described the work of the four-pronged department which he heads and said that workforce development, which involves many Lakes Region manufacturers, is one of his highest priorities, along with the promotion of tourism and foreign trade.
He will soon be embarking on a trade mission to Turkey, along with Governor Maggie Hassan, and noted that New Hampshire firms used to do $3 million a year in business with that country but it has risen to $8 million and is continuing to grow.
An association of 30 communities, the Lakes Region Planning Commission has active programs in land use and environmental planning, transportation, watershed preservation, economic development, mapping and technical assistance, and information services.

 

CAPTION:
Jeffrey Hayes, left, new executive director of the Lakes Region Planning Commission and Warren Hutchins, right, chairman of the commission, present Luke Powell, assistant Public Works Director for the city of Laconia, with an Award of Excellence for the city's project involving a bio-retention system which filters runoff water before it enters Pauses Bay. (Roger Amused/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 June 2014 12:46

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