Katie McQuaid's Scene in Manchester: Free Ray Brewer; No, forget I said thatBY KATIE McQUAID
February 23. 2014 9:56PM
It's about 5:30 a.m. After reading the New Hampshire Union Leader cover-to-cover, you turn on WMUR for the weather. There he is, standing outside braving the "wintry mix," while his colleagues Sean McDonald and Erin Fehlau sit and share witty banter in their Manchester studio.
Of course I am talking about Ray Brewer, the WMUR reporter with infinitely perfect hair who gets up at 2 a.m. every day, often to drive to the middle of nowhere and stand outside to bring us the latest news about the weather, an accident, fire or other atrocity. The past few weeks of seemingly unending winter storm reporting has encouraged an anonymous Brewer fan to start a Facebook page, "intended to Free Ray Brewer from his prison of awful places to report from."
The Free Ray Brewer Facebook page, which is a mix of satire and actual links to WMUR stories and Brewer's Tweets, made me laugh. It also made me wonder how Brewer really does feel about a job that often appears so miserable to those of us watching him stand outside the Hooksett tolls in yet another snow storm.
Brewer was kind enough to answer some of my emailed questions on an exceptionally busy news morning last week. He said he had seen the Free Ray Brewer page, and was touched.
"I think it's great that someone would take the time to do this and hopefully have some fun with it. I wonder often how I get myself into some of these situations, but it's nice to know there are people out there looking out for me," he wrote.
Brewer said his day starts at 2 a.m. when he wakes up and gets his assignments before heading to the station to meet up with his photographer and jump in a news vehicle. Being out on the streets that early in the morning provides for some pretty funny anecdotes.
"They usually aren't funny at the time," he wrote. "When things don't go as planned, you're busy trying to figure out how to tap-dance out of the mess."
There was the time Brewer did a live shot at Weirs Beach during Bike Week. "... just as I go live a guy rides his motorcycle behind totally nude ... which is why I don't do live shots from Weirs Beach anymore."
And then there's that street sweeper.
"I do think I'm being stalked by the street sweeper guy in Manchester," he wrote. "No matter where we happen to be, if we're doing a live shot in the city, he seems to find me right when my shot goes live and I'm trying to hear people talking in my ear."
Brewer is probably most famous for his outdoor winter snowstorm reports. And he admits they can get tiring. He wrote, "You wonder how you can make it different from the last storm. Even though each snowflake is different, it can seem like the storm isn't. But you know this is what everyone wants to know about and it's why people are watching."
He's right. I am one of those people who can't get enough winter storm reporting. It makes me feel guilty, like it's my fault Brewer has to be out there.
I also feel guilty for thinking his hair was fake.
Come on. You thought it was, too.
It's not! Brewer credits lots of product and his hair stylist Joy Senecal of Silk Day Spa for keeping his hair in place, even during Winter Storm Apocalypse. Serendipitously, Senecal is my hair stylist too, and she confirms the hair is legit.
Brewer, who lives in Peterborough, has been with WMUR since 1997. And he seems to genuinely enjoy his often cold, wet job as Daybreak reporter, which he has been doing for more than 10 years. He said the shift was great when his son was young.
"I've thought about normal hours. But when my son was younger, this shift was great because I could be done with work and still make his games ... something many working parents might have a hard time doing in the afternoon," Brewer wrote. "Now that he's older, it'd be nice to wake up late sometimes, like 6 a.m. Occasionally I think about doing a mix of studio and field reporting, but I know that I'd get bored staying within four walls. I like people and ultimately this job is all about talking to people and telling their stories."
I totally understand what he means. Thanks for braving the weather for us, Ray. I hope you are not freed from your "prison of awful places to report from" anytime soon.
Parents of school-age children know this week is February school vacation week. Those of us not lucky enough to be headed to sunny locales or organized enough to pre-arrange for a week of vacation camp are left scrambling for fun things to do to keep sanity in the house and kids off the iPad.
Thank you to the city's Office of Youth Services for arranging a whole list of free and discounted activities available for families this week.
A nice woman who answered the phone at the office (she asked not to be identified) said the office has been planning Winterfest activities for about 30 years. The most popular activity, she said, is swimming available each morning this week at the Southern New Hampshire University pool from 9:15 to 10:45 a.m. The swimming is free, but limited to 75 pass holders per day. Passes must be picked up the day before you plan to swim at the Office of Youth Services in The Chase Building, 1045 Elm St., Suite 204. The office is open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. The office's number is 624-6470, But don't bother calling to reserve a pass. It's not allowed.
Other activities include movies, story times and a special concert by musician Steve Blunt at 2 p.m. on Tuesday at the Manchester City Library. The Currier Museum of Art is offering free admission to everyone this week, and has special activities planned for families.
Finally, there are discounted deals for bowling at Spare Time, skiing and tubing at McIntyre Ski Area, admission to SEE Science Center and climbing at Vertical Dreams.
A full list of activities, deals and restrictions is available at www.manchesternh.gov/departments/YouthServices.
NH365.ORG Event of the Week
The CHaD Battle of the Badges Hockey Championship is finally here. The incredible on-ice talents of New Hampshire firefighters and police will be showcased at the Verizon Wireless Arena this Saturday. This highly competitive game of "Good vs. Good" is in its seventh year raising money for the programs and services at the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. Make sure to wear your red or blue to cheer for Team Police or Team Fire.
The puck drops at 5:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 or free for children 10 and under. Visit www.NH365.org for more information on all the fun things to do around Manchester this winter.
If you have an interesting item for Scene in Manchester, write to Scene@UnionLeader.com.