Keeping the farm in the fair

The Hillsborough County Agricultural Fair, among the oldest agricultural fairs in New Hampshire, opens its gates for the weekend of Friday, Sept. 8, through Sunday, Sept. 10. Fairgrounds open at noon on Friday and at 9 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and admission costs $10 for adults and $5 for students, seniors and military members and veterans.

This year marks the 65th anniversary of the Fair, which first pitched its tents in 1958 and was founded after the New Boston Annual Agricultural Fair folded in 1948. The Hillsborough County 4-H joined with the Future Farmers of America, the Future Homemakers of America, the Grange Agricultural Committee and the Joe English Grange to start work on a new agricultural fair that would serve New Boston and surrounding communities.

“We work hard to maintain the ‘agriculture’ in the Hillsborough County Agricultural Fair,” said fair Vice President Michelle Rowe in an email. The activities of the Hillsborough County 4-H make up the backbone of the attractions, including livestock exhibitions, farm horse and mule competitions, rabbit conformations, pie auctions, sheepdog herding demonstrations, the Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off and the stock farm tractor pull.

The New Hampshire Agricultural Excellence Award is awarded annually to individuals, farms, businesses and organizations that enter exhibits promoting a better understanding of agricultural and rural life. The Bennington 4-H Club, run in conjunction with the University of New Hampshire, won the award last year and will be defending their title at this year’s fair.

While the agricultural exhibits and attractions make up the backbone of the fair, they’re just one aspect. Families with young children will want to check out the horseshoe tournament, which runs all day throughout the fair and offers prizes in boys and girls divisions. Tycho’s Twisted Tubes will be making balloon animals in the Children’s Venue. If you enjoy live music, don’t miss the Battle of the Bands on Friday night, and be sure to check out the live broadcasts and giveaways from 96.5 The Mill. If you’ve shared a meme from Dog Rates or Dogspotting, you’ll definitely enjoy Sgt. Nick Hogden and K9 Gibbs, who will share a demonstration of canine obedience, article search and apprehension skills. Amusement rides from Fanelli Entertainment open at 3 p.m. on Friday and at noon over the weekend. There will also be midway games like skee-ball, whack-a-mole and ring toss, in which players can win giant stuffed animals and other great prizes.Rowe promised a full spread of local food vendors in addition to the corn dogs, funnel cakes, lemonade and deep-fried everything you’ve come to love at county fairs.

Rowe described the Hillsborough County Agricultural Fair as “a small county fair, great for families and with something for everyone.”

Hillsborough County Agricultural
Where: New Boston 4 H Youth Center at 17 Hilldale Lane in New Boston
When: Friday, Sept. 8, from noon to 9 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 10, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday, Sept. 11, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Tickets: $10 for adults, $5 for children, seniors and veterans.
More info:

Tacos, boba, grilled cheese

Find a variety of flavor at the BBQ & Food Truck Fest

Great New England Craft & Artisan Shows is throwing a party with its seventh annual Great New England BBQ & Food Truck Festival, which will take place at the Hampshire Dome in Milford on Saturday, Aug. 12.

GNE Events director Jody Donohue started the event in the summer of 2016. Her goals were simple: “to support the food truck owners,” she said, and “provide them with a venue to offer their products!”

In the years since that first food truck festival, GNE has hosted similar events across the New England area, from the wholesale outlets in Kittery, Maine, to the Big E fairgrounds in West Springfield, Mass. The Food Truck Festival at the Hampshire Dome is one of the larger events that GNE hosts, with capacity for 3,000 attendees.

While the event is playing host to more than 50 food trucks, there are plenty of other attractions to keep attendees and their families occupied. The Food Truck Fest will feature live music from local bands, ax throwing, a craft fair, caricature artists and a Kidz Zone with face painting, chalk drawings and a bouncy castle.

Food trucks are the main focus at the festival. There will be offerings for every palate, from vegetarians and gluten-free offerings to award-winning barbecue and what Donovan describes as “more than one bite burgers.” Among the offerings:

• The Lobster Roller, based in Gloucester, Mass. This food truck makes fresh lobster rolls with mayonnaise or drawn butter, as well as lobster grilled cheese and clam chowder.

• The Bubble Bee Tea Truck, serving boba, the sweet, fruit-flavored milk tea with marble-sized tapioca balls, as well as dumplings.

• Sweeties Candy Shuttle, which offers an array of penny candies, saltwater taffy and jelly beans that will make you nostalgic for seaside vacations and quaint general stores.

• Prime Time Grilled Cheese, the Manchester-based grilled cheese truck that offers new variations on grilled cheese sandwiches, such as the tomato and cucumber pepper jack sandwich.

• La Chula Truck, a truck offering fast tacos, burritos, quesadillas, empanadas and other Mexican and Central American treats.

• Uncle Joey’s Cannoli, which sells fresh and pre-filled cannoli.

• Carla’s Coffee, the Seacoast-area coffee truck that offers locally roasted coffee beans as well as cold brew, smoothies and ice cream drinks.

• NOBL Beverages, which offers canned cold brew and fresh coffee and tea.

• The “gourmet on the go” food truck Roaming Eats, with sandwiches, burgers, steak and mac and cheese bowls.

Beer and cocktail enthusiasts can check out the biergarten, which offers cold craft brews and cocktails from a variety of New Hampshire-based breweries and distilleries.

Donovan has stated that she wants attendees to enjoy the “fun, family, community and small businesses” at this year’s festival.

Great New England BBQ & Food Truck Festival
When: Saturday, Aug. 12, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Hampshire Dome, 34 Emerson Road, Milford
Admission: $5; see

Come together with the Ukulele

A conversation with Jake Shimabukuro and how you can join NH’s ukulele scene

Ukulele together

Jake Shimabukuro’s new album is all about collaboration

In 2006, Jake Shimabukuro played the ukulele heard ’round the world. A clip he recorded for the New York City public access program Midnight Ukulele Disco, in which he played “While My Guitar Gently Weeps,” was one of the first viral video successes on YouTube, amassing more than 15 million views. Since then he’s become a global ambassador for the four-stringed instrument. In addition to releasing several albums and touring the world, he’s performed a concerto for ukulele and orchestra, scored the Japanese remake of the indie film Sideways, given a TED talk, and spearheaded a ukuleles-in-the-classroom effort in his home of Hawaii.

Jake Shimabukuro and Friends, the ukulele maestro’s most recent album, couldn’t come at a better time. This duets album features a diverse array of musicians — among them Willie Nelson, Bette Midler, Michael McDonald and Jimmy Buffett — in a celebration of the ways a good song can bring different people together.

Ahead of an appearance at Tupelo Music Hall on Thursday, April 14, Shimabukuro discussed the tour and the record in an interview via Zoom in late March.

Your latest album is a series of duets and collaborations. How did that come together and how did you pick which songs to play with which artists?

Oh, wow. Wow. So, that was a project that started about four years ago. It was a conversation I had with my manager. And he was like, ‘You should do a duets record.’ And I was thinking, wow. He started naming some artists and I was like, oh man, that would be awesome. But in the back of my head, I was thinking, oh, this is never going to happen, right? How are we going to get all these people together?

We had mentioned the project to Roy Benson of Asleep at the Wheel and he got very excited and he agreed to help me co-produce the record. The first thing he said to me was, ‘Man, we got to get you and Willie Nelson together.’ And I said, ‘Really?’ He picked up the phone, called Willie and told him all about the project and Willie was down with it. And two months later we were in the studio recording ‘Stardust.’ I mean, it was unbelievable. And so after that, it just gave the project all this momentum.

A couple of the songs on here are standards, like Willie Nelson’s version of ‘Stardust.’ What is it like to play those songs? And how did playing those songs change the way you listen to them?

Man, I tell you, when Willie Nelson agreed to do … .Well, when he said he’ll do ‘Stardust,’ I mean, my jaw hit the floor because I was like, I am going to have the opportunity to not just play, but record ‘Stardust’ with Willie Nelson, right? And I got to tell you, it was a funny story because the night before we went into the studio, Ray took me to go see Willie. And it was my first time meeting him in person. I’d seen him, we played festivals together and I watched his show and kind of seen him from afar. But I remember we got to his house and I was so nervous and he came over. He came over and Ray introduced us and I got to shake his hand and I had my ukulele in my case, on my back. And he looked at me and said, ‘Hey, so we’re going to do ‘Stardust,’ right?’ And I said, ‘Oh yeah, thank you so much. I’m so honored that you’re doing this. I’m looking forward to it. Thank you. Thank you.’ And then he looked at me, he goes, ‘Oh, OK. Yeah. Well, maybe we should run through it.’

And I was like, ‘Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. No, we can definitely do that.’ And then there was this awkward pause and then I realized, oh, he means right now. … And I was like, OK. But see, I wasn’t prepared for that because I thought he was going to play guitar on it. I didn’t realize he was just going to sing. I immediately realized, oh, OK. I’m just playing and he’s singing. So I was so nervous, but we played through it and then he looked at me and he said, ‘All right. Yeah. Sounds good. Looking forward to tomorrow.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, thank you so much.’ And then I left with Ray and I was just like, I told Ray, ‘Oh my gosh, I almost passed out.’ Talk about being put on the spot. And man, he’s such a nice individual when you’re around him. He just has such a gentle presence and vibe so I loved it.

Did you go to your collaborators or did they come to you?

Well, Jimmy Buffett introduced me to probably half the people on the record, right? So, I was very fortunate to know most of them. There were a few people I hadn’t worked with before, like Willie Nelson and Lukas Nelson. Also, Vince Gill and Amy Grant. Most of the people on the record I had worked with before, so it was a little easier to ask and reach out. Jon Anderson, that was another dream come true because I was a huge Yes fan.

And Jon Anderson’s iconic voice. Oh man. And then when he agreed to sing ‘A Day In The Life,’ it just blew me out of my seat. I couldn’t believe he was going to sing that. And then he kind of tricked me. He said, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll sing you a demo of how I like to sing it.’ And he sent me this video and he is actually singing it. But he’s also strumming a ukulele.

And I was like, I’m sorry. I called him and I was like, ‘Jon, I didn’t know you played the ukulele.’ He goes, ‘Oh, I love the ukulele.’ And it was such a moment. So I told him, ‘You have to play ukulele on the record,’ but he didn’t want to play. ‘No, no, no, you play the ukulele. I’ll just sing.’ But man, he is just phenomenal. He did a lot of, some of that percussion work and stuff on there as well and added all his layers of vocals and, oh, it’s just phenomenal.

What is it like to tour behind a solo album that’s so rooted in collaboration?

I always make a joke when I talk about the record and I introduce some of the artists that are on it. And I always say, ‘Unfortunately they all couldn’t be here tonight.’ I say, ‘We’re going to do the songs anyway.’ So we have been playing a lot of the songs from the record, obviously the instrumentals. But songs like ‘Something’ and we were doing ‘A Place In The Sun.’

When I listened to this album, one of the things that struck me was that it’s a real celebration of community and the way music can be a common denominator for a lot of different people. How does it feel to be touring and promoting this as some of the Covid restrictions are lifting and people are coming out to see live music?

I’m so grateful to be performing in front of a live audience again. I mean, it just feels so good. I mean the first couple shows when we first went back out a couple months ago, I mean, after the first song, I cried. I unexpectedly just was so…. It was so overwhelming that I actually started tearing. And I’ve noticed that in a lot of these shows, you can see people they’re just [moved]. Because for a lot of the venues that we’ve been playing at recently, we’ve been kind of their first show back. Well, back in November and December when we were touring and we were their first show back. So, I mean, you could see people just in tears, just crying, sobbing. And you know everyone has had their own unique challenges during this time. It just shows how just the healing power of music and the power of people coming together, being in the moment and just letting the music touch you, and it’s so powerful.

What can New Hampshire audiences expect from your upcoming show at Tupelo?

So I’m bringing a dear friend with me. His name is Jackson Waldhoff. He’s been touring with me for the last couple years. He’s from Hawaii as well. And just a very, I mean, honest musician. I just love his playing. Everything he plays is so pure. He’s so melodic and it just really complements the ukulele and the parts I play. We’re going to be doing a lot of bass and ukulele duets and he’s just so much fun to watch and I just love playing with him. Every once in a while you come across musicians that you play with and you just almost feel like you know where they’re going to go, what note they’re going to, how they’re going to play, and you just can read them dynamically. And I think that’s what we’re able to provide for each other and it’s really awesome, so I’m excited.

Jake Shimabukuro
When: Thursday, April 14, 8 p.m.
Where: Tupelo Music Hall (10 A St. in Derry)
Tickets: $30 to $50
More info:

You can ukulele

Ukulele enthusiasts keep the music going

Talking about his previous appearance in the Granite State, Jake Shimabukuro shouted out the ukulele players of southern New Hampshire.

“The last time I was there, they came and they brought their ukuleles,” he recalled. “It’s so wonderful to see that. All these communities of ukulele players, just all over the world. It’s crazy.”

The feeling is mutual. “No one can shred a ukulele like Jake!” June Pinkham said in a recent email interview. As one of the co-organizers for the Southern New Hampshire Ukulele Group, she would know from ukulele shredding. Over the past decade, SNHUG has organized sing-and-strum get-togethers for ukulele enthusiasts in the Seacoast area, with bigger and more ambitious plans on the horizon.

Former Granite State resident Dan Mathis first organized SNHUG on Meetup in December 2011, appointing Pinkham as a co-organizer. Their earliest meetings were attended by five members.

“I had inherited a Martin ukulele from my father-in-law and wanted to learn to play it in his honor,” Pinkham wrote. “Little did I know where that would lead!”

The group has about 600 followers on their Meetup group, and avid members have met twice a month at the Seabrook Public.

“We have many talented members in our group!” Pinkham wrote. She describes their membership as “people from all walks of life. People like me, with no musical background, to people who are very well accustomed to playing on stage professionally and just want to have some fun.”

SNHUG’s mission includes a community service component, which involves performances and fundraising. The group frequently looks for “a way to ‘do a little good’ … bringing smiles to nursing homes, community events, farmers markets — wherever there was a need.” They have also raised money for the nonprofit Ukulele Kids Club, which brings musical instruments to children in hospitals as a form of music therapy.

“We organized the Battle of the Ukulele Bands, which took place in 2019 at The Music Hall in Portsmouth,” a “seriously complex event” that raised $23,000 for the UKC. “To date, we have raised almost $90,000 for charity — all the while having a blast!”

Check out a ukulele (literally)
You can get a feel for a ukulele by checking one out of some area libraries. Ukuleles are available at the Hooksett Public Library (31 Mt. St. Mary’s Way in Hooksett;, 485-6092) and from the Merrimack Public Library (470 DW Highway in Merrimack;, 424-5021). Call for details.

Like many ukulele groups, SNHUG had to shift their in-person gatherings to Zoom when the Covid-19 pandemic first hit. As the temperatures rose, the organizers found ways for the group to get together. “Last year we met as soon as the weather warmed up in the spring all the way through November — outside at the park, frozen fingers and all.” They were warmly greeted by members of the community and grew their community through outdoor performances at nursing homes and farmers markets. Just as ukulele sales grew in 2020, so did SNHUG’s community: “We didn’t see a change in our membership during the lockdown. In fact, I think our membership went up!”

SNHUG can help ukulele novices learn the instrument. For more information on SNHUG’s gatherings and lessons, visit And keep an eye out for their annual SNHUGfest in Dover on Sept. 24.

Learn to play
Here are a few places where you can go to learn to play a ukulele.

• Let’s Play Music (2626 Brown Ave., Unit A2, Manchester, 218-3089; 145 Hampstead Road, 1st floor, Suite 26, Derry, 425-7575; offers children’s and adults beginner to advanced ukulele lessons in person and on Zoom.
• NH Tunes (250 Commercial St., Suite 201, Manchester; 660-2208, offers ukulele lessons for beginners to advanced players in person and on Zoom.
• North Main Music (28 Charron Ave., Suite 1, Nashua; 505-4282, offers in-person and online ukulele lessons for children and adults.
• The Real School of Music (10 A St., Derry; 260-6801, offers beginner to advanced ukulele lessons for children and adults in person and on Zoom.
• Steve’s House of Ukulele (123 Main St., Concord;, 555-9876) Steve’s House offers Zoom and in-person lessons for beginners as well as more experienced players. Steve’s House also offers instrument rentals and sales.
• Ted Herbert Music (880 Page St, Manchester; 669-7469, John Chouinard teaches ukulele lessons in person and over Zoom for beginners through advanced players. He also leads the ukulele ensemble Ukuladies.

Featured photo: Jake Shimabukuro. Photo by Sienna Morales.

Community rinks

Find a local pond for skating and hockey

Many communities have ponds or outdoor rinks for ice skating, stick practice and pond hockey. Town- and city-maintained ponds are free to use, making it a fun outdoor activity that doesn’t cost a thing if you already have skates – and a hockey stick, if you want to play, which longtime hockey player and Black Ice Pond Hockey Association Board President Daniel Luker says can totally change your on-ice experience.

“Get a buddy, show up, bring a stick and a couple pucks … and get out there and you’ll automatically start playing hockey,” Luker said. “Once you start skating and once you pick up a stick, it’s a whole different ball game. … Once you pick up a stick, you can’t help but play, and you’ll chase the puck forever.”

Whether you want to give pond hockey a try or would rather just free skate, here are a few local rinks to check out. The open/closed status of the rinks can change from day to day depending on temperatures. Call or check the city’s or town’s website or social media for the most recent information.

Amherst Middle School Rink, 14 Cross Road, Amherst, 673-6248, When open, hours are daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Beaver Meadow Pond at Beaver Meadow Golf Course, 1 Beaver Meadow Drive, Concord, 225-8690, When open, hours are daily from dawn until dusk.

Bow Town Pond, next to the Bow Community Center, 3 Bow Center Road, Bow, 223-3920,

Brown Memorial Field, 740 Swanzey Road, Swanzey, 352-4614, find it on Facebook. When open, hours are daily from dawn until dusk.

Davis Lane Rinks, Davis Lane, Amherst, 673-6248, When open, hours are daily from 10 a.m. to dusk.

Dorrs Pond, adjacent to Livingston Park, 56 Hooksett Road, Manchester, 624-6444, When open, hours are daily from dawn to dusk.

Four Corners, behind Holman Stadium, Sargent Avenue, Nashua, 589-3370, When open, hours are daily from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. for general skating, and before 11 a.m. and between 4:30 and 6 p.m. for hockey.

Hood Park at 4 Rollins St., Derry, 432-6136, When open, hours are daily from dawn until dusk.

Ice Skating Rink at Watson Park, 441 Daniel Webster Hwy., Merrimack, 882-1046, When open, hours are daily from dawn to 9 p.m.

Jeff Morin Fields at Roby Park, 126 Spit Brook Road, Nashua, 589-3370, When open, hours are daily from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. for general skating, and from 8 to 10 p.m. for hockey.

Kimball Lake, 47 Kimball Lake Road, Hopkinton, 746-8263, When open, hours are daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Riverside Ice Rink 223 Route 103, Warner, 491-9019, When open, hours are daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information and to find out whether it’s currently open for skating, visit the Facebook page.

Rollins Park at 33 Bow St., Concord, 225-8690, When open, hours are daily from dawn until dusk.

Shepard Park, 418 Nashua St., Milford, 249-0625, When open, hours are daily from dawn to 9:30 p.m.

White Park, 1 White St., Concord, 225-8690, When open, skating hours are daily from dawn until dusk. The Merrimack Lodge offers skate rentals for $5. Lodge hours vary; find it on Facebook for the most up-to-date hours.

Puddle Duck Pond

Puddle Duck Pond

This outdoor rink at Strawbery Banke in Portsmouth is another option for those who want a better chance of getting on the ice even if weather conditions haven’t been great.

“Ice is maintained with a refrigeration system and Zamboni, which helps the rink remain open in warmer air temperatures,” Veronica Lester of Strawbery Banke Museum said via email. “Unless the ice is deemed unsafe for skating, Labrie Family Skate at Puddle Dock Pond is open in rain, snow and sunshine. Opening and closing calls are made day-of by rink operations staff.”

The rink is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Admission costs $12 for skaters age 5 and up. Skate rentals are available for $6, and skate sharpening is available for $7.

Chill fun

Winter Fest returns to downtown Concord

By Angie Sykeny

Coinciding with the Black Ice Pond Hockey Tournament is the fourth annual Concord NH Winter Festival on Saturday, Jan. 29. There will be indoor and outdoor festivities for all ages, including shopping, food, entertainment, tours and more.

“There are not a lot of family-friendly events this time of year, and that is what makes this event special,” said Jessica Martin, Executive Director of Intown Concord, which organizes the Winter Festival in partnership with The Hotel Concord.

Ice carvers will demonstrate their craft and compete in a live ice carving competition during the Winter Festival. Courtesy photo.

The highlight of the event is the live ice carving competition featuring “New England’s best ice carvers,” Martin said. It’s free and open to the public on the Statehouse lawn from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The ice carvers will also be there on Friday, Jan. 28, the day before the festival, doing live ice carving demonstrations from 3 to 9 p.m.

“This year we have seven carvers participating in the competition, which is the most we have had to-date,” Martin said, adding that the carvings will remain on display at the Statehouse for the week following the festival.

Main Street restaurants and retail shops will be open for a Winter Shopping Stroll; Red River Theatres will have a matinee screening of the animated family film Smallfoot (2018, PG) at 10 a.m. (tickets cost $5); and the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center will run games and interactive activities starting at 10:30 a.m.

Guided tours of the inside of the Statehouse will be offered, starting every 30 minutes from noon to 3:30 p.m. The tour lasts around 45 minutes and will include opportunities to see the Hall of Flags, which has more than 100 battle flags on display from the Civil War, World War I, World War II and the Vietnam War; the House of Representatives chamber and Senate chambers, which have national significance as the oldest continuously used legislative chambers in the U.S.; the Governor and Executive Council chambers and more.

“There are more than 200 portraits to view as you tour the building,” Martin said, “and it’s always fun to see the Visitor Center’s First in the Nation Primary display and Bicentennial dioramas.”

The Winter Festival Stage, which will be set up on South Main Street next to O Steaks and Seafood restaurant, will be a hotspot of activity, including an ice bar, complimentary hot cocoa, s’mores toasting and more. The stage will feature a variety of live entertainment, starting with a dance party with DJ Darren Roy at 11 a.m., followed by storyteller Ade Shields (11:30 to 11:45 a.m., and 1:35 to 1:50 p.m.), local singer-songwriter Jasmine Mann (11:50 a.m. to 12:05 p.m., and 1:15 to 1:30 p.m.), New England folk-rock band The Penniless Jacks (12:20 to 12:50 p.m., and 2:10 to 2:40 p.m.) and family-friendly drag performer ChiChi Marvel (1 to 1:10 p.m., and 1:55 to 2:05 p.m.)

A free shuttle service will be available, running between the Statehouse, the Hotel Concord, the Holiday Inn and the Black Ice Hockey Tournament at White Park throughout the day.

Martin said attendees should continue practicing Covid safety — masks are not required but are strongly encouraged for indoor activities — and should have no difficulty staying spread out.

“This outdoor festival will offer people the space they need to socially distance themselves,” she said.

Concord NH Winter Festival

Where: Main Street, Concord
When: Saturday, Jan. 29. Most activities will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Ice carving demonstrations will take place on Friday, Jan. 28, from 3 to 9 p.m.
Cost: Admission is free. Certain activities may have a fee.
More info: Visit or call 226-2150.

Featured photo: Photo courtesy of Black Ice Pond Hockey Association.

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