Common Core not popular in Belknap County Delegation

CONCORD — Eleven of the 18 members of the Belknap County Delegation, all of them Republicans, who were present and voting endorsed a bill to prohibit the New Hampshire Department of Education from requiring any school district to introduce and apply the so-called Common Core education standards. Senate Bill 101 carried the Senate by a voice vote and the House of Representatives by 202 to 138.

The voting for the bill were Representatives Glen Aldrich, Russ Dumais and George Hurt of Gilford, Dennis Fields of Sanbornton, Valerie Fraser of New Hampton, Ray Howard of Alton, Bob Luther, Peter Spanos and Frank Tilton of Laconia, Michael Sylvia of Belmont and Herb Vadney of Meredith. Representatives Guy Comtois of Barnstead, Robert Fisher and Don Flanders of Laconia, Brian Gallagher of Sanbornton, Shari LeBreche of Belmont, and Peter Varney of Alton did not vote.

Festival music director sees much to admire in Tom Nee's legacy

PLYMOUTH — Donato Cabrera, who returns to the Granite State for his third straight summer as music director of the New Hampshire Music Festival, says that one of his goals this year is to focus on the great history of the festival and bring back some of the connection to the community which was one of the hallmarks of the festival under the leadership of Tom Nee, the festival's music director from 1960 to 1992.
''I love hearing stories about him,'' says Cabrera, whose roots are on the West Coast where Nee headed the Department of Music at the University of California at San Diego and conducted the La Jolla Symphony, and is, like Nee, a champion of new and experimental music.
Cabrera, who was born in Pasadena, California and grew up in Nevada, says that many of his contemporaries were students of Nee and shared with him their experiences in learning the art of conducting from Nee.
Cabrera has been the resident conductor of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and the Wattis Foundation music director of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra (SFSYO) since 2009. In 2014, Cabrera was appointed music director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic Orchestra and has been music director of the California Symphony and the New Hampshire Music Festival since 2013.
''What is striking about Nee and his connection to New Hampshire is the love and connection that the musicians and the audiences felt for him. I think it's important that we learn from that connection and bring back that esprit de corps that he established,'' says Cabrera, who says that his experience in New Hampshire has shown him that there is ''a huge need and love of music in this area'' that keeps the festival a vital part of the Lakes Region.
He says that he is looking forward to then festival's 63rd season, which runs from July 7 through August 6 and has a theme of ''American Landscapes'' and will explore and celebrate American music and the great outdoors.
He says that one of the things that the festival will be bringing back will be "Music in the Mountains", which will provide sunrise, sunset and campground concerts, as well as music in area bars and cafes.
''It's a way of connecting with people and it seems really appropriate for an area with such a beautiful landscape to have music be a part of the experience,'' says Cabrera.
He says that the only time the Music Festival made it into the New York Times was an article written by Jordan Houston in the August 10, 1975 edition. The article, which was headlined "Bach-Packing, or Carrying Music to New Heights", which described the daily routine of a half dozen musicians hiking to Appalachian Mountain Club huts on Mount Washington to give concerts.
In another outreach move the orchestra will be taking part in a special event "Oz with Orchestra" on Monday, July 27 at 7 p.m. at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford in which it will provide music during a showing of the 1939 classic film.
Cabrera says that he is thrilled with the appearance at Meadowbrook, a venue he has wanted to bring the orchestra to ever since he first saw it.
Other outreach activities include Families Making Music programs with students, children and parents and art showing with the Women's Caucus for Art.
Cabrera says the festival has been awarded a grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the "Music Unwound" consortium. The grant will support the presentation of the acclaimed 'Dvorak in America' program which features a performance of Dvorak's stirring Symphony No. 9 "From the New World" complemented by multimedia and narration by scholar-writer Joseph Horowitz.
He says that the presentation is fascinating and describes what it means to be an American when it comes to its own style of music.
Cabrera says that the Czech composer lived in America for three years while composing music about the New World and spent a summer in a Bohemian community in Iowa after having been invited there by a student. ''I've visited there. The organ where he played his compositions is still there as s the Bohemian stye restaurant where the meals were served on long wooden tables along with Czech beer.''
Cabrera, who has established an international reputation for his conducting skills, says that he considers himself fortunate to be spending his summers in the lakes and mountains of New Hampshire. That feeling appears to be mutual with friends of the N.H. Music Festival, who say they consider themselves fortunate to have Cabrera as music director.

Detailed concert and ticket information is available at

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Donato Cabrera returns for his third summer as Music Director of the New Hampshire Music Festival. (Courtesy photo)

Laconia in strong position to be new host of Pumpkin Festival

LACONIA — "Right now, thanks to Charlie St. Clair, all roads lead to Laconia," said Ruth Sterling, the manager the Keene Pumpkin Festival, who is seeking a home for the autumn extravaganza, which earlier this month was orphaned when the Kenne City Council declined to renew the license for the event.

Sterling visited Laconia yesterday to meet with St. Clair, of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association, Karmen Gifford, of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce, Amy Landers of the Lakes Region Tourism Association and Justin Slattery of the Belknap Economic Development Council. They discussed the management and operation of the festival, together with the resources required to stage it. She said that she expects to announce the venue of the 2015 festival on Friday, April 24.

"I would be thrilled," said Mayor Ed Engler at the prospect of holding the 2015 Pumpkin Festival in Laconia.

Likewise, City Manager Scott Myers said "I'm a proponent of these types of events in general," adding that he was especially familiar with the annual Hampton Beach Seafood Festival, which has grown from 200 people on a rainy day to an event attracting 150,000 in its 26 years. He said that "the logistics of hosting the pumpkin festival are workable. Definitely doable."

Sterling said that while more than a dozen towns in New Hampshire and Massachusetts have expressed interest in hosting the event, but yesterday's meeting was her first with potential hosts. She recalled that her relationship with Laconia began as the Keene City Council debated the future of the event after rioting and spill-over partying near the campus of Keene State College, coincided with the festival last October. St. Clair, who faced similar issues in dealing with critics of Motorcycle Week, traveled to Keene to speak on behalf of the festival.

"Laconia," she said, "has been very special ever since Charlie turned up."

The festival began in 1991 as an effort to amass the largest number of lit jack-o-lanterns in one place. Since 2011 the festival has been staged by Let It Shine, a non-profit corporation, with management by Sterling Design & Communications.

Sterling explained that the event is a one day street festival, which in the course of its history has set nine world records for the most glowing jack-o-lanterns, many of them racked on a tower 35 feet high perched at the top of Main Street. "I want to see a tower in October!," she remarked.

The street is filled with music and performances throughout the day and the celebration is capped by the lighting and counting of the pumpkins. She said that in Keene non-profit organizations operated the nearly the 50 food concessions, which represented their major annual fundraising effort. In addition, a craft court featured some 30 private artisans. The event has been supported by the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, scores of local sponsors and hundreds of volunteers..

Since the Keene City Council denied the festival a license on April 2, Sterling said that people in the cities of Nashua, Portsmouth, Franklin and Claremont and towns of Exeter, Hampton Beach, Loudon, Peterborough and Rindge have courted the event, along with Spooky World in Litchfield, Cheshire Fairgrounds in Swanzey and New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Both Gardner and Leominister, Massachusetts have also expressed interest.

Sterling said that she spent much of the day in Laconia on Wednesday and "loved everything I saw," adding "the community must want the festival."

County will stick with current health insurer to qualify for $225k refund

LACONIA — The Belknap County Commission has decided to stick with Health Trust, its current insurer, to provide health insurance coverage for county employees.
A key factor in the Wednesday decision was a $255,000 rebate/refund which the county is receiving from Health Trust which it would lose if it shifts to a different insurer.
Commissioners opened bids for the health insurance contract on April 1 from Health Trust, which offers a Matthew Thornton Blue plan, and New Hampshire Interlocal Trust, which was formed in 2012 and which partners with Harvard Pilgrim as an insurance underwriter.
Commissioner Hunter Taylor (R-Alton), said that the said that the two proposals are fairly comparable but any change from the current insurer would have to be negotiated with the four unions which represent county employees.
He said that he favored staying with the current insurer, even though the NHIT plans cost slightly less than those provided by Health Trust, because the refund makes Health Trust less expensive on the bottom line..
Commission Chairman Dave DeVoy (R-Sanbornton) said ''there's $255,000 on the table which is important to collect'' and in support of staying with Health Trust.
Commissioners approved a four-year lease agreement for four new 2015 Ford Interceptors which will cost the county $43,040 per year and approved of the disposal of four county vehicles, two Ford Crown Victorias with mileage of 116,573 and 90,295 belonging to the Sheriff's Department, and two Crown Victorias with mileage of 186,214 and 95,241 belonging to the Corrections Department, through the state surplus auction.
Also approved was a request from the N.H. Bureau of Court Facilities, which leases space in the Probate Court area at Belknap County Superior Courthouse, for a modification of the space by adding a door and and a wall in a shared hallway to improve security and limit the interaction between court employees and the Probation and Parole Office.
All costs of the project will be paid for by the Bureau of Court Facilities while the work will be overseen by the Belknap County Maintenance Department.