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In Exeter, celebration includes birthday wishes for Gov. Hassan

Union Leader Correspondent

February 27. 2014 11:29PM

Gov. Maggie Hassan autographs a photo for Clara MacDow, 8, of Northfield during the governor's birthday party at Exeter Town Hall Thursday night. Clara was joined by her father, Steve. (JASON SCHREIBER/Union Leader Correspondent)

EXETER — Eight-year-old Clara MacDow was all smiles at a birthday celebration Thursday night and it wasn't even her party.

The Northfield girl waited patiently all week to attend a 56th birthday party for Gov. Maggie Hassan at the Exeter Town Hall.

"She's been excited about this more than anything we've done during school break," said Clara's father, Steve.

Clara was among the youngest guests at the party hosted by friends of the Exeter Democrat. She and her dad met Hassan during her gubernatorial campaign and brought a picture of her with the governor to have autographed.

Asked why she wanted to attend the party, Clara responded, "She supports schools and kids."

Nearly 100 friends, community members and other guests attended the party, which was paid for by Friends of Maggie Hassan.

At the governor's request, guests were asked to make a $20 donation to Cross Roads House, a Portsmouth homeless shelter, instead of bringing a gift.

The party included a dance performance by Arts in Reach and music by the Phillips Exeter Academy Concert Choir and Sandpipers Seacoast Children's Chorus.

But it was 7-year-old Tori Woltering of Raymond who stole the show when she waved to Hassan from the audience and was then invited to come up onto the stage.

An excited Tori wasted no time grabbing the microphone to sing happy birthday.

It was a touching moment for a little girl who was adopted two years ago. Her adoptive mother, Michele, said Tori was non-verbal, suffers from fetal alcohol syndrome and is on the autism spectrum.

"She had a rough start in life, so this is huge. Seeing her up on stage singing happy birthday to the governor was a proud moment. It's something we never thought she would do," Michelle said.

Tori and other guests enjoyed cupcakes whipped by the culinary arts students at the Seacoast School of Technology and washed them down with bottles of Squamscot Soda with labels wishing the governor a happy birthday.

Water Street Bookstore sponsored the event. Annabelle's Ice Cream and the Green Bean restaurant of Exeter also contributed to the party."What a great way for me to spend my birthday," Hassan said as she thanked the guests for coming to not only celebrate her day but also donate to Cross Roads House.

Long-time friend Karen Prior of Exeter, who helped organize the party, said it was a chance to celebrate one of Exeter's own, but it was more than a birthday party.

"The idea was really to be a showcase of the community," Prior said, referring to the local performers and others who contributed from the arts community.

Hassan was joined by her husband, Tom, and her mother, Peggy Wood of Cambridge, Mass. Wood said she was proud of her daughter and the residents of New Hampshire.

"I think they've given her a lot of support and they appreciate her efforts," Wood said.

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