Lawton chats with Sununu

Bob Lawton, right, chats with Gov. Chris Sununu in Funspot's D.A. Long Tavern. (Adam Drapcho/The Laconia Daily Sun)

LACONIA — The fifth annual Red, White & Brew Craft Beer and Wine Festival, taking place this Saturday, Sept. 25, will for the first time honor a veteran whose contributions to his country and his community have endeared him to those around him.

Bob Lawton, whose Funspot amusement arcade has served generations of families since 1952, is a veteran of the Korean Conflict, where he served as first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Chemical Corps, stationed in Pusan, Korea. Lawton has remained active with veterans’ groups, including Veterans Count, which is the beneficiary of the proceeds from the Red, White & Brew festival. The festival has taken place at Funspot since its inception.

Christine Pederson, senior director of events and corporate relations at Easterseals NH, the sponsor of the event, said, “People always honor people when they’ve passed away, and they’ve done all this stuff, and we felt that honoring and paying tribute to people who are still amongst us and who did these wonderful things, that they should be appreciated before they’re gone.”

She continued, “Funspot has opened up their grounds to us very generously — they don’t charge us for anything; they’re very very helpful. I mean they let us pretty much take over half of their parking lot, which is rather big.”

Festival organizers are able to drop off equipment early and Funspot staff helps them set up.

“They’re a wonderful partner, and we felt that, in this fifth year, it was just a nice thing to do. Bob, the patriarch of the family, is the person who has allowed us to camp out for the Red, White & Brew these past five years.”

The festival, running from noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, will offer beer and wine tastings, as well as a car show and music by the Bob Pratte Band, featuring Bob Pratte on guitar and vocals, Amberley Gibbs on vocals, Dave Guilmette on bass, and Steve Fortuna on drums.

In addition to the beer and wine, there will be food vendors and a lemonade stand, and, in keeping with its focus on veterans, the playing of patriotic songs. The Laconia Fire Department will bring along a 30-foot flag.

Pederson said the event has attracted as many as 400 people, and over just four years has raised more than $208,000 for Veterans Count, the philanthropic arm of Easterseals NH Military and Veterans Services. Veterans Count provides emergency financial assistance to veterans, service members, and their families.

“Easterseals New Hampshire actually piloted Veterans Count,” Pederson said, noting that other Veterans Count programs across the U.S. are patterned on New Hampshire’s model.

The Lakes Region Chapter, the youngest chapter in the state, has four fundraisers during the summer, with Red, White & Brew being its largest one in terms of the number of activities. The Peter Makris Memorial Run takes place during Motorcycle Week, and a golf tournament and Rockin’ for Vets are additional fundraisers.

Cynthia Makris, daughter of Peter Makris and president of the Naswa Resort, serves as vice chair of Veterans Count’s Lakes Region Chapter. She has been involved with the Red, White & Brew festival since its inception and serves as the “brain trust,” according to Pederson. Like the other business owners who volunteer for the event, she makes time for the local charity.

“You know, they’re working 40, 50, 60 hours themselves, and will take the time to make sure these types of events are successful, so we can’t thank our volunteers enough,” Pederson said.

“The local community is always looking for something to do in their own hometown, and they really appreciate that Funspot has opened up their doors to let us do something like this in a meaningful way for veterans.”

Pederson noted that they are encouraging people worried about the coronavirus to wear face masks. “It is an outdoor event, and there’s not a mask mandate,” she said, “but all the pourers will be wearing gloves. Our volunteers will wear gloves if they feel more comfortable, and we have all the PPE in place to help people feel more comfortable. We hope people will just come and enjoy, and everybody has a safe, great time helping raise money for our vets.”

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Thomas P. Caldwell can be reached at liberty18@me.com.

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