COLEBROOK — Along with Canaan, its sister community across the Connecticut River in Vermont, this town is ready to celebrate the largest land animal in both states at the North Country Moose Festival.
Organized by the North Country Chamber of Commerce, the 28th annual festival begins Friday at 3 p.m. on Main Street in downtown Colebrook and then moves several miles northwest on Saturday to the Canaan Recreational Park in Vermont.
Admission is free to the festivities in Colebrook but tickets to enter the Canaan venue on Saturday are $5 for adults, $3 for children ages 5 to 12, and free for kids 4 and under. Some activities have additional costs. A full list of event and fees is online at www.chamberofthenorthcountry.com/moose-festival.html.
As it has for years, the festival will features artisan, craft and food vendors, with Jodi Gilbert, the chamber’s executive director, saying there will be 48 vendors in Colebrook and 65 in Canaan.
Visitors can take a ride in RE/MAX’s tethered balloon or a horse-drawn wagon provided by CJEJ Farm. The more adventurous can go up in a helicopter, at $30 per person, from CR Helicopters.
On Friday, Main Street will be a popular place when the Classic Car Parade and Show will take place there.
On Saturday, the Canaan Recreational Park will host, among other things, an art contest; a dog show presented by Coos Animal Sanctuary; a moose calling contest; an Army National Guard Blackhawk helicopter; and “cow plop” bingo, in which one lucky person will win 50 percent of all ticket sales, up to $1,250.
Located in the heart of the North Country’s expansive ATV trail system, the festival will host a “ride-in” for all-terrain vehicles Saturday. Sponsored by the NEK Country Riders ATV Club, the event will begin at 10 a.m. at the Murphy Dam in Pittsburg. From there, riders will proceed down to the festival.
The Moose Festival, said Gilbert who is also its co-director, “is truly a celebration of the North Country’s communities, culture and, of course, the moose,” and it has “something for every age.”
Expected to draw some 3,000 people, the festival is also the chamber’s largest fundraiser. Laurie Daley, who is the chamber’s president, said the festival offers locals and guests alike the opportunity to “enjoy old-time family fun while visiting and seeing the diverse talents and services located right here in the North Country.”
She said highlights includes the moose calling contest, moose chili, maple syrup tasting contest, and the both the dog and classic car shows.
Paul Nugent, owner and operator of the Mohawk Valley Camping Area in Colebrook, said moose have been plentiful this year all around Colebrook. When someone calls the chamber and says they want to see a moose, the chamber calls him, said Nugent.
A Colebrook native, Nugent enjoys the outdoors and in particular, “looking at moose.” A frequent Moose Festival attendee and volunteer — “It’s a lot of fun, and all the days are different” — Nugent cautioned that while “there’s a lot of luck involved” in spotting a moose in the wild, there are also some things you can do to see one, like being in the right place at the right time.”
Moose, he said, are active “almost any time of the day” but most early in the morning and in late evening.
In Colebrook, “We have our moose wallers, we call them, which is where the moose come to lick road salt and also to eat vegetation,” said Nugent.
Asked about moose calling secrets and what someone needs to do to win the festival’s moose-calling contest, Nugent laughed and said “I can’t give those away.”
While Nugent was reticent with that advice, outdoors-international.com, said calling a moose “isn’t rocket science.”
“Cow moose usually make a moaning sound, sometimes long and drawn out for up to 10 seconds, and sometimes shorter and ‘whiny’ sounding,” Outdoors International said, while a bull moose “makes a subtle, throaty, airy grunting sound.”
A successful moose caller, Outdoors International continued, begins by setting up in an area where there are known to be moose and then calling, mixing in cow calls with bull grunts.
According to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department, an adult moose averages 1,000 pounds and stands 6 feet at the shoulder.
They range from Alaska, Canada, and the northern U.S. from Washington across to northern New England, and the northern Rockies south to Utah. Fish and Game said new Hampshire’s moose population peaked in the late 1990s, with between 7,000 and 7,500. But currently there are about 3,500 animals, with the highest concentrations in the Great North Woods.