Karagianis to be honored Thursday at Belknap Mill ceremony

LACONIA — Tomorrow morning, June 23, Laconia will celebrate the life of Peter S. Karagianis in the shadow of the Belknap Mill, a monument to the industrial heritage of the city that still stands today thanks to his vision, energy and generosity.

The walkway from Beacon Street East to the footbridge over the Winnipesaukee River will be named Peter Karagianis Way to forever mark his place in the forefront of the effort that spared the oldest, unaltered, brick mill in the nation from demolition.

Karagiani was called "Mr. Laconia" in 1985 by Edwin Chertok, a former mayor of the city, in recognition of his many contributions and unstinting service to the community. Today, on what would have been Karagianis's 100th birthday, Peter Karagianis Way will be dedicated to the memory of one of the city's most beloved and revered citizens, who passed away last month.

The celebration will begin at 9 a.m. with a public presentation delivered by New Hampshire State Senator Andrew Hosmer, Mayor Ed Engler, and members of the Karagianis family. They will commemorate the naming of Peter Karagianis Way and present the plaque designating the Belknap Mill as a property on the National Register of Historic Places.
Following the ceremony and throughout the day, the Mill will be open for cake and will feature a special exhibit devoted to Peter Karagianis' remarkable commitment to save the Belknap Mill.

– Michael Kitch

Money maker - Motorcycle Week makes businesses, bikers happy


LACONIA — Merchants from the local hospitality industry said this past week's annual motorcycle rally was far more successful and profitable than last year's.

Except for the first Saturday night into Tuesday morning, the weather was perfect, and merchants said their customers were happy to be in the Lakes Region.

"My week was fabulous," said Cynthia Makris of the Naswa Resort. "We did much more business than last year."

Russ Hart of Hart's Turkey Farm in Meredith said his business was much better than last year.

"People were happy because of the weather and sales were great.

Both Hart and Makris said Motorcycle Week is a lot of work but for many merchants like them, it's the week that turns their season around.

"This is so important for us and for our employees for income," Hart said.

Following that same sentiment was Allen Beetle of Patrick's Pub, who said he had record sales for the past week and that his customers were really happy with the weather and with the rally.

He said the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion had crowds that pumped additional money into the local economy and his restaurant that made many of his employees very happy.

All three acknowledged that while many local people get annoyed with the traffic, the money earned by the local hospitality industry from Motorcycle Week goes right back into the local economy.

Makris said that with the revenue she earned from last year's rally, she was able to install a brand new security system from a Gilford contractor, while Hart and Beetle said the money their employees earn from the annual Motorcycle Week all gets spent locally.

Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce Director Karmen Gifford said the annual rally is one of the key engines that supports the local economy.

She said this past week downtown Laconia was busy because of the activities generated at the train station, and Thursday's Farmers Market was packed. Gifford said she spent some time along Route 106 as well as Meredith and Moultonborough and said she saw eager rally goers visiting a number of local businesses.

Motorcycle Week Association head Charlie St. Clair said Monday that, with the exception of the LaconiaFest debacle, this past Motorcycle Week was a great event.

St. Clair said the state overall had an "absolutely wonderful" week and the people who came for the rally had a good time.

He said he was especially happy with the Passport program that saw businesses from all over New Hampshire and Maine list themselves on a "passport" and give stamps to the motorcyclists who visited their businesses.

"We were very pleased to get these kinds of results," he said, adding that the vendors were really pleased with the program.

St. Clair explained that bad weather affects only the New England and New York riders who may opt not to come on a rainy day. The people who traditionally come for the entire week and people who had planned their week for months in advance came anyway.

"Real motorcyclists deal with whatever we have to deal with, including the weather," he said. "We just adjust the way that we ride."

St. Clair said one biker told him that he was thrilled to see snow on Mount Washington on Tuesday morning and that although it prevented him from going up the road, he said it was one of his favorite moments.

Mayor Ed Engler said he spent most of his week in the immediate Weirs Beach area and said a lot of people came to Laconia and the Lakes Region and had a good time.

"Most business that offered information said they were having record weeks," he said. "One restaurant told me (it) had it's best day ever last Friday."

Engler led the I Love Laconia Ride on Friday and said he saw motorcyclists have a good long ride every where he went.

As to the economy, Engler said, "Think about what the week before (Motorcycle Week) and the week after and make a judgment as to whether it was a success or not."

"I don't see how anyone could conclude it was anything but," he concluded.

Got lunch! Program kicks off first week of feeding children in need


LACONIA — Community members ranging in age from 5 to 92 rallied together on Monday to kick off the sixth summer of Got Lunch! Laconia.
"It was a great beginning to the summer, with a primarily younger crowd helping out at the start of this year, and lots of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts taking on leadership roles," said Paula Gile, Got Lunch! Laconia, board member. Other volunteers who joined in the opening distribution included Mayor Ed Engler and Tony Felch of the Greater Lakes Region Children's Auction, which has helped donate over $100,000 to Got Lunch! Laconia since its inception in 2011.
Got Lunch! Laconia serves healthy meals to local children in the community during the summer months. The Got Lunch! Laconia program was inspired by local community member, John Walker, who was startled by the staggering rate of students on free and reduced lunches in the city of Laconia. With 60 percent of the students in the district eligible for free or reduced lunches, and many other families in need, Got Lunch! Laconia began in 2011 as a way to ensure children were receiving a balanced meal at least once a day. The services provided by Got Lunch! Laconia are available to any families with school aged children in the city of Laconia who fill out a meal request form.
The celebration of the start of this season was well attended by local volunteers, however the number of children registered for the 2016 Got Lunch! Laconia program, was slightly lower than the 657 that were registered in 2015.
"I would like to think that the lower numbers may mean that there are less children in need, but it also may mean that families may have not signed up for the services yet," said Gile, who went on to state that registration is still open to local families. Forms can be found online at www.gotlunchlaconia.org/ or at the Congregational Church of Laconia office.
As of the start of 2016, there were more than 70 businesses and faith-based organizations that have partnered with Got Lunch! Laconia to provide the 120,504 lunches that have been served over the past five years. Direct support has been provided by the local food bank, as well as through a partnership with local supermarket Vista Foods, which ensures that local families can have access to dairy products through the Dairy Voucher Program. Got Lunch! Laconia is excited to share that additional partnerships have been established with The Lakes Region Agriculture Collaborative, which will providing fresh, locally-grown vegetables for distribution beginning next Monday.
Volunteers handle the production and distribution of meals each Monday morning between the hours of 8 a.m. and noon. Tasks for volunteers include packing grocery bags from the hours of 8 to 10 a.m., as well as the delivery of groceries from 8:30 a.m. to noon. More than 230 volunteers assisted with the delivery process last summer.
"Volunteers are always needed, and anyone is welcome to join us any Monday morning and lend a hand," said Gile.
According to Gile, assistance is also needed through monetary donations that help them purchase canned tuna and chicken, which have been low at the food back this year, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. Donation forms can be found online at the Got Lunch! Laconia website.
Additionally, community members can support Got Lunch! Laconia by purchasing raffle tickets for a Sea­-Doo personal watercraft donated by Irwin Marine. Tickets are $10 each or three tickets for $25, and can be purchased at Irwin Marine, Vista Foods, All My Life Jewelers, Tavern 27, Sports & Marine Parafunalia, and Piche's Ski & Sports. The raffle drawing will take place on Monday, Aug. 15, at 8:30 a.m., at the Congregational Church of Laconia.

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With their bags full, Darlene and Peter carry food to their drivers for delivery for Week 1 of the Got Lunch Laconia program at the Congregational Church Monday morning. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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Volunteers Judy Nelson, Xander Ainsworth, Tina Batchelder and Lacie Houle fill "Got Lunch" bags on Week 1 at the Congregational Church Monday morning. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)