LACONIA — It took three weeks for Charlie St. Clair and Jennifer Anderson to comb through the charred rubble in the offices of the Laconia Motorcycle Week Association that were destroyed by fire on Christmas Day.
“It was shovel by shovel,” St. Clair, the organization’s executive director, said of cleaning up the soaked and frozen debris. The two did the work themselves because the association’s insurance was insufficient to cover that expense, St. Clair noted.
But now St. Clair and Anderson are shifting more and more of their energy to promoting this year's Motorcycle Week, which is scheduled to take place June 12 to 20.
The 2021 edition of Rally News went to press on Thursday. The magazine, which contains information about the races and other activities during the nine-day event, as well as advertisements from the event’s sponsors and many local businesses, is a big part of the association’s marketing campaign.
He said the association still plans to have an information booth at Daytona Bike Week, in Florida, which is scheduled for March 5-14.
In the meantime, the Belknap Mill Society has donated a small, one-room office for the association to use until the office at 1105 Union Ave. can be repaired. The Northeast Motor Sports Museum in Loudon and the Lakes Region Tourism Association in Tilton also offered the association temporary quarters.
St. Clair said many local businesses as well as private citizens have been very supportive since the fire.
A GoFundMe page set up by a longtime Motorcycle Week patron has raised more than $11,700 toward a $75,000 goal. While there have been sizable contributions — some as large at $1,000 — most are more modest: $10, $20, $50.
“No donation is too small,” St. Clair said.
The cleanup has been bittersweet.
The body of the office cat, Ashland, was found among the rubble last week. St. Clair said it appeared the cat died from smoke inhalation. He said he was very appreciative of the people who have called him during the past six weeks to offer support, and even some who thought they had seen a cat matching Ashland’s description somewhere in Lakeport.
While most of the contents of the association’s office were destroyed, some turned out to be salvageable, including magazines and, potentially, some photographs. A collection of American Motorcycle Association pins from the 1940s and ‘50s was found undamaged, St. Clair said.
The fire started above the suspended ceiling in the office. As the fire progressed, the burning ceiling tiles fell and ignited the furniture and other contents in the office.
An electrical problem is suspected to have started the fire, which had likely burned for hours before it was discovered by two motorists driving past the building, Fire Chief Kirk Beattie has said.
St. Clair has estimated that losses due to the fire could amount to $300,000.