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February 15. 2014 8:36PM

Remember: Winter can't last forever


The Beech Street playground is burried under snow after the midweek snowstorm in Manchester. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)

Sure, Mother Nature has been doing her level best to remind us what a real New Hampshire winter feels like.

But it may cheer you to know that there are plenty of folks already working hard on the summer activities that make New Hampshire a popular playground for residents and visitors alike.

Tickets went on sale Friday at 10 a.m. for the Lady Antebellum/Billy Currington/Joe Nichols show on Aug. 31 at the Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion at Meadowbrook. But with a foot of new snow, some of the box office staff couldn't make it in, so operating owner Bridget Harding called in re-enforcements.

It was a snow day for her two sons, Jack, 15, and Luke, 13, but they didn't get to sleep in. "I dragged them in to make up for the staff that couldn't make it in," she said.

Winter is actually one of the busiest times for the 8,000-seat concert venue, Harding said, as they book and market shows for the summer season. "Once the shows are booked and put to bed, the actual day of the show is pretty much easy for us," she said.

There's also construction going on at the Gilford site this winter to install a bigger loading dock and a new bathhouse. The 2014 season is "shaping up to be a great year," Harding said.

"We definitely are going to have some rockin' summer nights here."

Tai Freligh, communications director for the state Division of Travel and Tourism Development, said most of the calls coming in these days are about the many winter activities New Hampshire has to offer.

But the staff is also planning for summer. "It sort of helps when you're shoveling out 10 feet of snow from your driveway," he said.

Freligh said there's a lot to promote: "We've got 18 miles of coastline. ... There's the boardwalk, there's fried dough, concerts, fireworks, strolling along the beach when there's sand and no snow ... .

"And then there's also the Lakes Region. There's cruises on Lake Winnipesaukee, there's fishing, but then there's also just getting outdoors, taking hikes."

Summer, Freligh said, is the most popular season for tourism here, with 40 percent of visits and spending.

Ginni McNamara, director of special events at Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce, is already planning the annual Seafood Festival that takes place Sept. 5-7.

It's the 25th anniversary of the festival, and McNamara is busy lining up entertainment on the beach and two stages, including a Bon Jovi tribute band, and a hula-hoop contest.

She's also planning the first-ever "Piepalooza" for late March or early April, and the Toast of the Coast celebration in May. "That's a really fun event. It makes you feel like spring's here," she said.

Like many Granite Staters, McNamara said she's "sick to death of shoveling."

She's yearning for spring so she can enjoy her new Mustang convertible. "I'm dying to put my top down," she said.

There's perhaps no surer sign that spring is coming than word that farmers who sell their produce at farmers' markets across New Hampshire all summer are gearing up for the season.

Charlie Reid, a founding member of the Manchester Farmers Market, has been lining up farmers and guest vendors for this year's market, which starts the third Thursday in June. "The more variety you have available, the more people will come," he said.

Last year, the market got a boost, for example, from the Portsmouth fish market that brought in lots of new customers, he said.

Reid owns Stone Wall Farm in Nottingham; he also farms tracts in Madbury and Barrington. "Most farmers now are ordering their seeds from the seed companies, and pretty soon, next month, they will start to crank up the heat in their greenhouses and they'll start their onions and leeks."

"Then they'll move into the other crops, like lettuce, eventually getting into tomatoes, cucumbers and squash. Everything in succession in the greenhouse."
In addition to planning for planting, Reid is busy raising 250 baby chicks. He'll sell about 150 of them, mostly to folks who want backyard chickens, and he'll keep the rest to lay organic eggs to sell this summer.
Most farmers welcome the snow, sometimes called "poor man's fertilizer" because of its nitrogen content, Reid said. "I know it's kind of a tough winter, but it's good for the farms, and it's good for the land to have this snow," he said. "It's putting moisture in the ground, and that nitrogen is good for the crops."

John Kane is marketing director for the Hampton Beach Village District, which sponsors entertainment and activities at the beach. He's been planning a host of events for this summer, including the annual world-class sand sculpting competition (June 19-21), weekly fireworks displays, a children's festival (Aug. 11-15) and a lineup of 80 bands performing at the Seashell Stage from May 25 to Sept. 1.

"There's always something going on," he said.

But Kane said you don't have to wait until summer to have fun at Hampton Beach. "If it's a nice, sunny day, come down and enjoy the beach when no one else is here. It's peaceful - and you can walk your dog off season on a leash."

swickham@unionleader.com


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