Independence Day celebrations across the Granite State

Compiled by Katelyn Sahagian


Whether it’s a cookout, parade or celebration, towns and cities across New Hampshire want to make sure their residents have their Fourth of July go out with a bang.

Amherst Fourth of July celebration Two days’ worth of celebration and entertainment, featuring fireworks, a festival on the town green, and a parade with classic cars competing for awards. When: Monday, July 3, festivities begin at 5:30 p.m. with fireworks. A second day of festivities, including the parade and festival, begins Tuesday, July 4, at 9 a.m. Where: July 3 events at Souhegan High School, 412 Boston Post Road. July 4 parade leaves opposite the Wilkins School, 80 Boston Post Road. Visit: amherstnh4th.org

Brookline fireworks uesday, July 4, around 9 p.m. Where: The fireworks will be over Lake Potanipo, Max Cohen Memorial Grove, 3 Mason Road. Visit: brookline.nh.us

Canobie Lake Park fireworks Stick around after a day at the amusement park for fireworks over the lake. The fireworks show is timed to patriotic music and the amusement park recommends viewers watch them by the daVinci’s Dream ride.When: Friday, June 30, through Tuesday, July 4, 9:15 p.m. Where: Canobie Lake Park, 85 N. Policy St., Salem Visit: canobie.com

Derry fireworks Tuesday, July 4, approximately 8:45 p.m. Where: Best viewing areas are Hood Commons, Crystal Avenue and Tsienneto Road Visit: derry-nh.org

Hopkinton Fourth of July Family Fun Day Featuring a kiddie and main parade, family games, live music and a cookie bake-off When: Tuesday, July 4, cookie competition dropoff is from 9 to 11 a.m., kiddie parade begins at 11:30 a.m., main parade begins at noon and competition results are at 2 p.m. Where: Parades begin at Hopkinton High School (297 Park Ave., Contoocook), then proceed through Fountain Square toward Contoocook Village Cemetery. Other festivities held at Houston Park, 41 Houston Drive, Hopkinton. Visit: hopkintonrec.com

Laconia celebration and fireworks Laconia will be holding a parade and a festival full of vendors and live music on top of the spectacular fireworks show. When: Sunday, July 2. The parade will start at 4:30 p.m., the band will start playing after, and fireworks will begin at 10 p.m. Where: The parade will start at the Laconia High School, 345 Union Ave., and end at Opechee Park, 915 Main St. Visit: laconianh.gov

Manchester Independence Day celebration Enjoy fireworks, live music and food vendors. When: Monday, July 3. Live music starts at 7 p.m.; fireworks begin at 9:30 p.m. Where: Arms Park, 10 Arms St. Visit: manchesternh.gov

Merrimack Fourth of July festivities A weekend-long celebration featuring fireworks, live music, a road race, a pancake breakfast and much more. When: The Merrimack Concert Association’s annual Patriotic Concert in the Park will be held Monday, July 3, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The annual Merrimack Sparkler 5K Road Race will begin at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, July 4. The Merrimack Rotary Club Pancake Breakfast will be held from 8 to 11 a.m. A parade will begin at 1 p.m. and fireworks will begin at 9 p.m. Where: Holiday concert at Abbie Griffin Park. Road race begins and ends at Merrimack High School, 38 McElwain St. Pancake breakfast and fireworks are also at Merrimack High School. The parade will start at the Commons Shopping Plaza, 515 Daniel Webster Hwy. Visit: merrimackparksandrec.org

Milford Star Spangled 5K Deck out in red, white and blue to show your patriotism at this race. There’s also a free fun run for kids ages 12 and younger. When: Saturday, July 1. Race starts at 8:30 a.m., check-in at 7:30 a.m. Where: Keyes Memorial Park, Elm Street Price: registration costs $30 for those 13 and older, $10 for 12 and youngerVisit: milford.nh.gov

Nashua Fourth of July celebration Fireworks, live music and hall of fame inductions. When: Tuesday, July 4, children’s activities from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., concert at 6 p.m. featuring The Slakas. Fireworks begin at dusk. Where: Holman Stadium, 67 Amherst St. Visit: nashuanh.gov

New Boston Fourth of July celebration Featuring a parade, live music, a barbecue, ax throwing and the firing of the historic Molly Stark cannon. When: Tuesday, July 4, parade begins at 10 a.m., fairgrounds will open at 4 p.m., opening ceremonies are at 5 p.m., and the fireworks will start at 9:30 p.m. Where: Parade begins at the top of High Street and will end at the grounds of the Hillsborough County Youth Center Foundation, off River Road. Visit: newboston4thofjuly.org

Raymond Fourth of July celebration 21th annual Fourth of July parade will have floats, horses, antique cars, clowns and more. When: Tuesday, July 4, parade at 9:30 a.m. Where: Parade proceeds from Route 27 (Epping Street) to the Raymond Town Common, onto Old Manchester Road and to Wight Street. Visit: raymondareanews.com

Salem Independence Day celebration Featuring live music, food trucks, face painting, fireworks, a beer garden and more.When: Monday, July 3. Kids’ activities and food trucks will be open from noon to 9 p.m., fireworks will start at dusk. Where: The event this year is taking place at Tuscan Village, 9 Via Toscana. Visit: townofsalemnh.org

Weare patriotic celebration fireworks Enjoy fair food, live music, and carnival rides before the fireworks start. When: Fireworks begin at 9:15 p.m. Where: Center Park, North Stark Highway, Weare Visit: fb.me/e/2VVetdx9S

Windham fireworks The Windham High School band will play a patriotic concert and there will be a selection of vendors selling all kinds of wares before the fireworks light up the sky. When: The parking lot opens at 5:30 p.m., the band starts at 7:15 p.m., fireworks at 9:30 p.m. Where: Windham High School, 64 London Bridges Road. Visit: windhamnh.gov

Turning a page

Poetry Society of NH begins search for new poet laureate

The last four years for state Poet Laureate Alexandria Peary have been filled with readings, assorted projects, and making poetry as accessible for people as she could.

“It’s been a total joy to serve the state,” Peary said about her tenure. “I’m really happy with the initiatives I’ve started and that they are continuing. I feel like it’s been a whirlwind of all these activities and engagement, and I hope people have benefited from it.”

Her appointment will be over in March 2024. As of now, the submission gates are open for the Poetry Society of New Hampshire, as it begins the search for the next state poet laureate.

Melanie Chicoine, the president of PSNH, said that, while this will be her first time leading the search for a poet laureate, she was excited to be finding the new statewide voice for the artform.

Chicoine said the process for finding the next laureate will be a long one. Submissions are currently open online and will be until Tuesday, Aug. 1. She said that applicants could be nominated by a third party or self-nominated, so long as they meet the criteria the committee is looking at.

The guidelines are simple, Chicoine said. The writer must be a Granite State resident, must have published a full-length book of poetry (with a hardcover copy sent into PSNH) and must indicate what they plan to do with the position once they are appointed.

“That’s the really important part,” Chicoine said about the last requirement.

To her, a winning application will have something like what Peary has done through her international literary magazine Under the Madness, which relies on a teenage staff to sift through submissions and to edit and design. She also spent her time as laureate doing readings and workshops with poetry lovers of all ages and setting up a time to read poetry submissions on air with New Hampshire Public Radio.

Chicoine wants nominees to set goals in their submissions about making poetry available to study, read and create for as many members of the state as possible.

“Bringing poetry to people all over the state in different contexts that makes it something relatable is something important,” Chicoine said. “‘Make poetry more accessible,’ that’s my mantra. [The poet laureate] is representing poetry in the state; what is their plan for how to do that?”

Peary said that while the last four years have been exhilarating she’s also excited to have time to spend with her family and at her profession as well. Being a laureate is an unpaid appointment, and Peary said she would easily work 30 hours a week in addition to her teaching schedule.

While it has been demanding, Peary said it was equally rewarding, remembering a time she met an amateur poet whose work she had read during her poetry hour on NHPR. She said she remembered his poem clearly, and to see his excitement meeting her and expressing what he experienced was amazing.

“To basically do good like that for other writers, from anyone from a kid just starting, to someone older, or someone struggling with writer’s block, just helping out, that’s one of the purposes of life, to cause some good in the world,” Peary said. “I’ll miss that. I’ll miss giving people those bursts of pure joy and pleasure about writing.”

Submissions for New Hampshire Poet Laureate
Detailed guidelines can be found at psnh.org/2024-laureate-nomination-guidelines.
Submission deadline: Tuesday, Aug. 1

Featured photo: Alexandria Peary. Courtesy photo.

Science summer fun

SEE holds third annual Kick Off to Summer

It’s all about summer fun at SEE Science Center, and reminding kids and families that summer can be a time for learning.

“It’s a celebration of science going into the summer months,” said Pete Gustafson, the deputy director at SEE. “We’re encouraging families to get into science learning.”

The Kick Off to Summer event at SEE is a chance for kids of all ages to learn more about science, outside of the classroom.

The event will have all the museum’s normal interactive exhibits on display and will also have a special guest in the New England Mobile Insectarium. The insectarium will have all sorts of crawling critters to spark curiosity.

“Insectarium is open all day, as well as a special room where people can come in and meet the specialists and interact with their activities and their microscopes and their bugs, both live and preserved displays,” Gustafson said.

The whole purpose of Kick Off to Summer, he said, is to remind kids and parents that curiosity is what drives learning.

“During the summertime kids want a break from school, but summertime is a great time to learn about what you want to learn about,” Gustafson said.

While the dates haven’t been determined, Gustafson said there will be visitors from University of New Hampshire and Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute with interactive activities. SEE also plans on doing some programs on solar eclipse safety, as well as giving out glasses, ahead of the partial eclipse in October.

In addition to the displays, SEE is offering a $15 discount to the museum’s summer camps throughout the week of Kick Off to Summer. The camps have different themes, from a bioengineering program to building simple machines.

Gustafson said the wants to see students follow their passions and curiosities, and realize that’s all science is.

“Kids go to school and they have to learn the lessons they’re taught, but summertime is when you learn what you want to know,” said Gustafson. “That’s what SEE science center aims to do year-round and that’s our message for Kick Off to Summer: Learning happens year-round and in summertime you get to pick the topic.”

Kick Off to Summer
Where: SEE Science Center, 200 Bedford St., Manchester; 669-0400
When: Friday, June 16, through Thursday, June 22, during normal museum hours, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Price: Kick Off is included with museum admission, $12 for visitors ages 3 and older, free for those younger.
Visit: see-sciencecenter.org

Naturally photogenic

Conservation group accepting submissions for amateur photo contest

Photography hobbyists have until early September to get shoots ready for a photography contest by the New Hampshire Association of Conservation Commissions.

The contest, called the Natural World Photography Competition, wants photos that make the landscapes and wildlife of New Hampshire the star of the show.

“Important government entities and NHACC provide support, technical assistance, training, and education for these volunteers. We really wanted to showcase the work they do protecting the local lands,” said Barbara Richter, the executive director at NHACC. “We thought an ideal way would be through a photo contest to encourage residents to take pictures of these beautiful places that are on their back doorstep.”

Photos are accepted in three categories: those taken by kids up to 12 years old, by teens ages 12 to 18, and by adults over 18. The top photo in each age group will win $250, with the runner up winning $50. Each photographer can submit up to three photos in the competition, and Richter said that there have already been a few submissions.

The competition will have a theme, Richter said, focusing on the wetlands and water in the Granite State.

“We’ve done a lot of wetland training this year. The theme for the whole year is wetlands,” said Richter. “Water is the big theme [for the contest]. The bay, the ocean, especially in the summer, those are the places we love to visit, the beautiful beaches and lakes.”

While the Association has its own protected lands, Richter said the photos don’t need to be taken on its lands. She said that so long as the photos are of nature in New Hampshire, they’re fair game.

The competition will be judged by three photography specialists, including a member of the Association’s board. Richter said that, because the judges know a lot about photography, it might be best for submissions to be minimally edited, just because the judges had mentioned highly edited photos wouldn’t be considered as seriously.

In addition to prizes, and bragging rights, NHACC will be using some of the submitted photos for their marketing, Richter said. This means that photographers who want to seek professional gigs could have a published photo in their portfolios.

While the competition has a lot of benefits to photographers and the Association, Richter said the real emphasis is on getting the people of the state out into nature and being inspired by it.

“The connection to art is really important in New Hampshire,” Richter said. “While this is focused on amateur photographers, I think there’s a lot of people who enjoy taking pictures and being outside and I think it’s a great connection.”

Natural World Photography Competition
When: Now through Sept. 8. Winner will be announced on Nov. 4
Visit: nhacc.org

Featured photo: Cherry Mtn by Rick Van de Poll. Courtesy photo.

Elevating their experiences

Black Heritage Trail presents discussion panel with immigrants and refugees

The Currier Museum of Art is promoting a different type of art: the human experience. The museum has partnered with The Black Heritage Trail NH in hosting a panel discussion about the lives of Black immigrants and refugees in the Granite State.

The discussion is based around Uprooted: Heartache and Hope in New Hampshire, a 2009 documentary produced and created by the University of New Hampshire.

“It’s a great documentary and it tells stories of life in refugee camps,” said Anne Romney, one of the organizers for the event.

Romney said the plan originally was to invite the subjects of the documentary to discuss where they are now, but it became clear that due to the passage of time it wouldn’t be possible. She said several of the people in the documentary were now elderly and at least one had died.

Organizers reached out to younger refugees and immigrants to create the new panel. Romney said they are just as impressive and just as incredible to hear speak.

“It’s very powerful to hear these stories, based on real people and real experiences,” Romney said. “We had a Zoom meeting to make sure everyone [on the panel] is on the same page and it was an amazing hour I spent with these folks.”

The speakers are Rashida Eltag Mohamed, a domestic sexual violence advocate through the Manchester Police Department; Anzura Gakwaya, a community building specialist with NeighborWorks Southern New Hampshire, and Fisto Ndayishimiye, the lead organizer for Change for Concord. The panel will be moderated by Grace Kindeke, a program coordinator for American Friends Service Committee NH.

Romney said it was important for the panel to be a discussion, not just a series of questions each expert was answering. She said the Black Heritage Trail wanted to highlight the human element and the lived experience each person brings to the table.

“You can read an article about immigration and it might be interesting, but you can start and stop reading,” Romney said. “If you’re talking and listening to some human being talk and you can feel the humanity of it, you get drawn in.”

Romney said the Black Heritage Trail is about educating people on Black history in New Hampshire and also on what the current Black experience is. This panel, she said, brings to light the modern experience for Black refugees and immigrants coming to this state.

“I think it takes courage and it’s exhausting to people to always be educating, to help others understand,” Romney said. “[But] I think it felt that there’s an appreciation of having a platform to speak, as hard and exhausting it is, I think it’s necessary and I think they believe it’s necessary.”

A month of celebration

The Black Heritage Trail of NH has several events scheduled in June as part of its Juneteenth Celebration. Other events include these:

  • “African Roots: Herbal Medicine, Inoculation & The Shaker Connection” This tour at the Canterbury Shaker Village starts at 11 a.m. on Friday, June 10 (with a bus pickup in Portsmouth at 9:15 a.m). The day will feature a talk and tour on the history of medicine at the Canterbury Shaker Village and Sister Edith Green, an African American Shaker who lived at Canterbury Shaker Village, according to the website. Tickets cost $35 for the tour; $45 with the bus ride.
  • “If You Knew, Let It Be Us” An opening reception for this exhibit at 3S Artspace in Portsmouth will take place Friday, June 16, at 5 p.m. The exhibit features McKinley Wallace III, “a mixed-media painter and art educator,” who “paints, draws and collages to tell stories of power manifested in resilient peoples,” according to the website. The event is free.
  • “Chanting Down Babylon: Redemption Songs of the Diaspora” This Reggae Festival will take place Saturday, June 17, from noon to 10 p.m. at the Strawbery Banke Museum grounds in Portsmouth. In addition to music (see the line-up of scheduled artists online), the day will include food and craft vendors, drumming, dance, kids’ activities and more, according to the website. Tickets cost $60 general admission, $10 for kids ages 6 to 18; kids 5 and under get in free.
  • “Camille A. Brown & Dancers: Reclaiming Black Narratives” This dance performance will take place at the Music Hall in Portsmouth on Sunday, June 18, at 4 p.m. Tickets cost $30 to $70.
  • The Healing Rhythm of the Drums This African drumming performance featuring Akwaaba Ensemble will take place at the Portsmouth African Burying Ground on Monday, June 19, at 11 a.m. and include a ceremony by Rev. Robert Thompson, according to the website. The event is free and open to the public.
  • “From Africa to America: We Are the Drums” The Howard Gospel Choir will perform at the South Church Unitarian Universalist Church in Portsmouth on Monday, June 19, at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $35.

Still Uprooted? Heartache and Hope in New Hampshire
Where: The Currier Museum of Art (150 Ash St. in Manchester; currier.org, 669-6144)
When: Wednesday, June 16, at 6 p.m. with a coffee hour before the panel at 5 p.m.
Tickets: Register at blackheritagetrailnh.org/juneteenth-celebration-2023 for the in-person or virtual presentation.

Featured photo: From left to right: Grace Kindeke, Anzura Gakwaya, Fisto Ndayishimiye and Rashida Eltag Mohamed. Courtesy photos.

Writers network

NH Writers’ Project conference connects authors

Publishing the great American novel, or a memoir, or a biography, or any other written text, is a monumental challenge. The New Hampshire Writers’ Project is looking to help aspiring authors with that endeavor.

NHWP is now in its third decade of hosting the 603 Writers’ Conference, which has helped get local authors information and connections through a number of events and classes. The event takes place at Southern New Hampshire University, a partner of NHWP.

The highlight of the day is a pitch party, a competition where authors have to give a one-sentence pitch of their story, and judges determine whether it’s an accurate representation in comparison to the longer description of the book.

“The first winner in 2019 won and her pitch for her book, The East Indian, went on because she said she was able to revise her query letter and went on to not only secure a top literary agency but now has a two-book deal with Scribner, and the book is being published in the States as well as in the United Kingdom,” said Masheri Chappelle, the project’s chairwoman. “This is just a glorious example of what the conference will be doing to help people.”

This year, Chappelle said, the conference will have 10 classes for attendees to choose from. The classes will range from creative writing to building high-quality author websites. The classes are kept small, to maintain the ability for one-on-one interaction with the teachers.

Before the classes start, Mark Dagostino will give the keynote speech. Dagostino is known for assisting in many celebrity biographies, including his New York Times bestseller The Magnolia Story with Chip and Joanna Gaines. Chappelle said he will be discussing memoirs and biography writing.

In addition to Dagostino’s keynote talk, there will be a panel discussion at the luncheon about what to do when an author’s book is chosen to be adapted for television or movies.

“It will be exciting to hear what it takes to have your book go from the library to the screen,” Chappelle said. “On the panel we’ll have authors and entertainment attorneys discussing the process of pitching, [and] finding a literary agent and entertainment attorney.”

Chapelle said hosting an event like this is only part of what makes the New Hampshire Writers’ Project important. She wants to give these authors a shot at publication, but she also wants the literary world to take note of everything happening in the New Hampshire arts scene.

“We have a lot of talent that is not recognized that needs it,” Chappelle said. “I would like [New Hampshire] to become a writers’ colony. Our topography is stunning. We have the mountains, the lakes, beautiful trails, and great cities with a lot of cultural development.”

603 Writers’ Conference
Where: SHNU Banquet Dining Facility, 2500 N. River Road, Manchester
When: Saturday, June 3, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Price: $125 for SNHU teachers and students, $165 for members, $185 for nonmembers
Visit: nhwritersproject.org

Music reflecting life

Nashua Chamber Orchestra performs piece director wrote during pandemic

With the 2022-2023 season coming to a close, David Feltner, music director for Nashua Chamber Orchestra, is debuting a piece that he wrote during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s a musical journey of how we heard about this strange disease, and … about isolation, uncertainty and anxiety,” Feltner said.

The piece, titled “From the Depths,” was originally composed as a solo on the viola, Feltner’s primary instrument. As the pandemic went on, Feltner said, he thought more of his friends and colleagues in the Nashua Chamber Orchestra and found himself transcribing sections of the piece into a full orchestration.

Now, Feltner said, he can’t imagine the piece any other way. It begins with a low rumbling on the timpani, to start a feeling of unease. That feeling progresses throughout the music.

“There’s dissonance from the horns, they’re three half-steps apart, and you get this knot in your stomach, this underlying ‘ugh’ feeling that keeps coming back in different ways through the peace,” Feltner said, adding that there is ultimately a resolve into harmony at the end of the piece, to represent coming to terms with the pandemic. “I’m hoping people will identify with that journey.”

The main section of the concert will be Wolfgang Mozart’s 39th Symphony. Before that piece, the concert will feature “Woodland Sketches No. 6-10” by Edward MacDowell, a composer who spent many summers in New Hampshire and whose music often took inspiration from the Granite State’s scenery.

Feltner said the Nashua Chamber Orchestra tries to tie a program together either thematically or through composition, and he feels that his music meets both of those ideas.

Mozart has a distinct style that people often recognize. Feltner said that, from a composition standpoint, he also leaves his own fingerprint on his music, using canons and imitation.

When it comes to MacDowell, Feltner said both of their compositions are describing something.

“He was kind of recreating a scene that he had seen,” Feltner said. “A personal response to a place or situation … his is more programmatic, mine is more abstract.”

Feltner hopes people listen and feel the emotions in the music.

“Music, I feel, should touch the heart, and of course engage the mind,” Feltner said. “Music doesn’t have to be a concrete thing, but it has to express something.”

Mozart and Friends
When: Saturday, June 3, at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Nashua Community College (505 Amherst St.)Sunday, June 4, at 7:30 p.m. at Milford Town Hall (1 Union Square)
Price: $20 for adults, $15 for college students, seniors, and active military/veterans, free for students ages 18 and younger
Visit: nco-music.org

Featured photo: David Feltner. Courtesy photo.

Hats off for women

Artists inspired by a once-essential part of the feminine wardrobe

Twiggs Gallery is celebrating women through the art show “Head’s Up: The Many Hats Women Wear.” The show, which features all artists from the Women’s Caucus for Art’s New Hampshire Chapter, prompted artists to use hats as inspiration, whether through making the hats, using hat imagery, or recycling hats to be used as part of the media for the artwork.

“There’s really only two hats you could actually wear,” Laura Morrison, the gallery director at Twiggs, said. “The rest are really sculptures.”

There are approximately 30 different hat-inspired pieces on display at the gallery. The goal with the show was to display many of the ways women exist in both modern and older societies. The artwork is on display until May 27, and most of the artwork is for sale.

There weren’t any strict rules to interpreting the theme, Morrison said. Some of the artwork on display takes inspiration from iconic women and their hats, like Carmen Miranda, who famously danced with a pile of fruit on her head.

Morrison said that the majority of the pieces are sculptures, with a handful of hanging pieces that were photography or mixed media. The artwork includes paintings and photos, sculptures using flowers and nature, and one piece that incorporates sound.

large oblong shaped hat hanging from ceiling, woman standing under had covered down to shoulders
“Negative Hat with a Positive Attitude” by Donna Catanzaro. Courtesy photo.

That piece, titled “Negative Hat with a Positive Attitude,” by Donna Catanzaro, turns photo negatives from Catanzaro’s youth into the structure of a bell-shaped hat that is suspended so viewers can stand inside. The audio aspect comes from a short monologue Catanzaro recorded, explaining how she became empowered by the old reels of negatives and the girl she once was.

“We asked the artists to broadly interpret the theme,” Morrison said. “Some of [the art] is nature, like Mother Nature, or about a woman’s work, or self-image, agency and power. We try to offer themes that can be broadly interpreted. It’s giving visual representation of thoughts and ideas that [the artists] have.”

This is the third installment from the partnership Twiggs has with WCA/NH that Morrison has inspired. The first was “Busting Out: Powerful Women” also known as “The Bra Show,” and the second was “Kick-Start” or “The Shoe Show.” Morrison said she isn’t sure what other piece of uniquely feminine clothing could be used to inspire art, but hopes to figure one out.

Morrison wants people to experience the show as a serious celebration of women but also to see it as something amusing.

“Whoever comes in will come out with something to think about, with what women are thinking about, and what challenge they have,” Morrison said. “Also, it’s just fun, too. I’ve heard people laugh a few times while they’re in there because they enjoy the show so much.”

Head’s Up: The Many Hats Women Wear
Where: Twiggs Gallery, 254 King St., Boscawen
When: During gallery hours, Thursday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday noon to 4 p.m.
Visit: twiggsgallery.org

Featured photo: “Forest Guardess Headgear” by Kathleen Lovett. Courtesy photo.

Granite skate

New Hampshire’s teams lace up for roller derby season

Game time at JFK Coliseum means something different in the spring and summertime than in the winter months. Spectators still flock to the stadium seats, but they also set up lawn chairs down on the concrete of the melted ice rink.

Officials in referee jerseys with names like “Tugboat,” “Doomsday Llama” and “She-Rantula” press neon pink tape over ropes that make up the flat track. Dozens of women roller skate around in black and pink or white and blue team tank tops. Some have on yoga pants, some have on bright colored skirts, all wear heavy-duty helmets and pads.

Music blasts through loudspeakers as fans, friends and family hold up homemade signs and scream their favorite player’s name.

With the first whistle on April 29, the roller derby season has officially started for New Hampshire Roller Derby’s travel teams.

NHRD was the first flat track roller derby organization in the Granite State. Its first season was 15 years ago. The sport has gained popularity throughout the country and locally. New Hampshire has four leagues, with varying numbers of teams. NHRD has two travel teams, three home teams and one recreational team.

Jena McClary, derby name Pixie Bruiser, has been a part of NHRD since 2008. She skates for the All Stars, the highest-ranked travel team, and for the home team Nightmares on Elm Street.

roller derby players on the rink
Kelsea “Terror Nova” Thom checks how far back her competition is after she breaks away and wins lead jammer. Photo by Katelyn Sahagian.

“It’s taken over my whole life,” McClary said. In addition to running the team’s public relations, she met her husband through the sport, and now he coaches the All Stars, and their kids also have played and worked as officiants as well.

McClary said it’s the best way to exercise, in her opinion, and also a great way to relieve stress.

“For me, it’s an outlet,” McClary said. “It’s an outlet I enjoy and the main thing that keeps me going is the challenge of it.”

Between the first whistle and the last introduction by the emcee, the skaters on New Hampshire Roller Derby’s A and B travel teams take a brief second to set up for the first jam of the night.

McClary and three other skaters stand in formation. She and two other blockers make a triangle, with the pivot standing close by. A few feet away, the first jammer of the night, Terror Nova, crouches down behind her line, waiting for the whistle.

When it sounds, it’s a race between Nova and Maine Roller Derby’s jammer to see who will control the match. Despite pushing and bobbing and weaving, the MRD jammer breaks out of the pack first. While Nova lost lead jammer this time, the friendly bout was only just beginning.

Roller derby is a sport that takes time, and someone who plays explaining it, to understand. It can be complex and confusing, especially if you’re learning in the middle of a game, where the seven officiants are keeping track of points and penalties, coaches and teammates are shouting suggestions, fans are cheering and skates are squealing on concrete while bodies are slamming into each other.

That being said, once the rules are laid out, it becomes easy to get wrapped up in the energy.

“It’s a combination of rugby and NASCAR,” said Raven Makenzie “Smackenzie Phillips” Ladao. “Many people refer to it as like the non-sporty sport. If you don’t fit in in other sports, this is your sport.”

Ladao said the easiest way to learn the game is to watch it. She has played all three of the positions on a roller derby team: jammer, pivot and blocker. She’s favoring the blocker position the most these days.

Ladao is a long-time veteran of roller derby. She’s played in several different states, as well as in Japan, which she represented in the 2018 World Championship in Manchester, England. Now she coaches NHRD’s junior league, which her kids either play in or officiate for.

NHRD will have a sign that says, “Ask me about roller derby” with an arrow pointed down to the person holding it. Ladao was the sign-bearer at the bout against Maine.

“Many people ask, ‘Where’s the ball?’ There is no ball in the sport,” Ladao said. She pointed out the two players with helmet covers on. “The person with the star on is essentially the ball, because that’s the only person on the track who can score the points.”

She explained that they are called jammers, and they have to start behind all the other players. Once the jammers make it past everyone on the track, one will be named the lead jammer and she’ll have the power to end the match early.

Jammers have to make it through the blockers. The blockers have to stay within 10 feet of each other, and try to keep the other team’s jammer from passing. It sounds easy enough, until you learn that they can’t use their forearms to block or hold onto the opposite team, as well as a plethora of other body parts they can’t make contact with.

The only form of punishment is a penalty, basically a time-out where the player has to sit in the penalty box for 30 seconds. The box has three chairs, one for a jammer, two for everyone else. There are plenty of different penalties that derby players can commit. Even coaches can be subject to penalties, and the team’s captain would have to sit it for the coach if that was the case.

“So the most basic penalty is a track cut,” Ladao explained. “That’s where someone hits you out of the track and you have to come in behind them. They can run back … but if you’re not paying attention and you jump back on the track before them that’s going-out-of-bounds penalty. So like going out of bounds, you have to come back in behind the person who bumped you out.”

Penalties are usually sat for 30 seconds; 20 of them the player has to be seated, the last 10 they can stand up and get ready to rejoin the game. Ladao said she’s never seen it happen before, but an entire team could be penalized at the same time, between two standing members and three seated ones.

Penalties are designed to keep players safe. The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, the governing body for women’s roller derby around the world, is constantly updating its rules to make sure that players are safe.

Having clear rules makes it possible for NHRD to have players of all ages, shapes and sizes, said Emily “Blitzy Borden” Chebook, who was the captain at the bout and skates for All Stars as well as the home team Granite Skate Troopers.

“I think there’s a place for almost anybody, whether it’s on the track or not,” Chebook said. “With skating, you can be tall and wide, you can be short and lanky. It doesn’t really matter.”

roller derby team standing in line and cheering for team mate standing in front with her hands positioned to form a heart shape
“Slick Tracy” (Brittany Duffy) is cheered on by her teammates after winning Most Valuable Blocker for NHRD against Maine. Photo by Todd Grzywacz.

Chebook has a unique history with NHRD. She saw her first derby bout at NHRD when she was in elementary school and immediately fell in love. She had wanted to play but she said there were no youth leagues back then.

She did a training session with NHRD before realizing she couldn’t commit the time to the sport. When she and her husband moved to the Midwest, she found a community because of roller derby.

“Some of the people I’ve met through derby are the sweetest teddy bears,” Chebook said.

Rachel “Jagged Little Kill” Smith, a new member of NHRD, who plays for the B travel team, The Cherry Bombs, and Nightmare on Elm Street, said that a lot of people have misconceptions about the people who play roller derby.

“I think when you roll derby, you kind of have an idea of the kind of person that plays,” Smith said. “You have a stereotype of, ‘Oh, you play derby, you must have piercings and face tattoos or live an “alternative lifestyle.”’ And we do have those people, but we have moms and nurses and accountants and grandparents.”

Smith said that the derby of the 1970s is not the derby of today, that it’s not just a bunch of women trying to hurt each other. Smith actually joined NHRD only five months ago after completing the training camp that started in September. She said that everyone on the team has been like having a second family.

“It is a little nerve-wracking to walk into this big group of people who are very close-knit,” Smith said. “We see each other two or three times a week in practice. A lot of people hang out socially outside of those times, and everybody is going to welcome you with open arms. It has been a completely incredible, welcoming community.”

Despite the players’ off-track personalities, their on-track personas were fiercely fighting to get ahead against MRD. Early in the bout, NHRD’s hard work paid off and they scored ahead in the leaderboard, and kept the pressure on for the rest of the bout. By the time the game had ended, they had won by close to 150 points.

After the game, the teams congratulated each other with high fives and cheers, as each group took a victory lap. It was as if they hadn’t spent the last hour tripping, pushing, shoving and body-checking each other.

Both teams amassed, standing and waiting for an announcer to say who won the most valuable jammer and blocker for each of the teams while the officiants counted up the final scores. Both sides cheered when the players were called forward, not caring about the rivalry they had just shared.

“People in derby are way nicer than we appear when we play,” Smith said. “We like to put on a good show for the audience. You know, be a little bit showboaty. But when it comes down to it … we’re normal people who just like to get together and sweat and push around our friends a little bit and then give each other high fives before we go home.”

Roller derby organizations and upcoming games
Granite Skate Roller Derby
Everett Arena, 15 Loudon Road, Concord, granitestaterollerderby.org
When: June 10, July 15, times to be determined.

Monadnock Roller Derby
Lee Clement Arena, 38 Grove St., Henniker, monadnockrollerderby.com
When: Saturday, Aug. 12, time to be determined.
Price: Online pre-orders are $10

New Hampshire Roller Derby
JFK Coliseum, 303 Beech St., Manchester, nhrollerderby.com
When: Saturdays, May 20, June 24, and Aug. 5, all at 4:30 p.m.
Price: $12 adults, free for children 12 and younger, veterans and NHRD veterans
How to join: Email the league at join@nhrollerderby.com for adult players. Youth skaters can sign up for the current session at nhjuniorrollerderby.com.

How to play

Rules come from the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, wftda.com:

The game of Flat Track Roller Derby is played on a flat oval track. Games are divided into two 30-minute periods. Within each period there are play sessions called jams, which last up to two minutes. There are 30 seconds between jams.

During a jam, each team has up to five skaters on the track. Four of these skaters are called blockers (together, the blockers are called the pack) and one is called a jammer. The jammer wears a helmet cover with a star on it. One of the blockers wears a helmet cover with a stripe; they are called the pivot and can be an alternate for the jammer.

The two jammers start each jam behind the pack and score a point for every opposing blocker they lap, each lap. Before they can start scoring, they must get through the first pack and skate around the track before they can score points on opposing blockers.

Roller derby is a full-contact sport but skaters cannot use their heads, elbows, forearms, hands, knees, lower legs or feet to make contact with opponents. It is illegal to attack a player’s head, back, knee, lower leg or feet.

Play that is unsafe or illegal may result in a skater being penalized. Penalties are served by sitting in the penalty box for 30 seconds of jam time.

The team with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Derby lingo

All terms and definitions come from the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, wftda.com:

Apex jump – when a jammer jumps out of bounds but lands back in bounds to break away from the pack.

Bank track – the traditional roller derby track from the 1970s. The track is sloped inward. Only a few are used in the United States.

roller derby players from 2 teams crowded on rink as they skate around each other
Kelsea “Terror Nova” Thom quickly maneuvers around a MRD blocker. Photo by Todd Grzywacz.

Blocker – one of the three positions in a derby game. Their job is to block the other team’s jammer and help their own jammer accelerate through the jam.

Bout – the name for a roller derby game.

Falling small – the ability to keep arms and legs contained when falling to avoid further injuries.

Flat track – the more common style of derby track. This one is made by taping rope down on a hard surface, indoors or outdoors.

Jam – a round of the bout. Can last up to 2 minutes, but can also be called off by the lead jammer.

Jammer – the player who scores points for the team; they wear a star helmet cover.

Lead Jammer – the jammer to break through first; they have the ability to call off the round by tapping their hips four times.

Pack – blockers and pivot must form one by being within 10 feet of each other.

Pass/earned pass – how points are tallied. A jammer can score up to four points each time they lap the other team.

Pivot – a blocker that can receive the star helmet cover and become the new jammer if needed. They wear a striped helmet cover.

Power jam – only one team’s jammer is on the track.

Star pass – where the jammer passes the star helmet cover to the pivot. If the jammer was the lead jammer at the time, they forfeit that position and the full two-minute round is played.

Track – an oval-shaped loop that derby is played on.

Safety gear

This is the gear that NHRD requires each of its players use.

• “Quad” style roller skates (inline skates are not allowed) — There are places that specialize in selling roller derby equipment, like Bruised Boutique (522 Amherst St., Nashua). Wear the skates that fit best, because improperly fitting skates can hold a player back and increase risk of injury.

• Dual certified helmet — Because while there isn’t a helmet that can prevent concussions, good helmets can help minimize injury.

• Mouth guard — The brand SISU is one that is easy to breathe through and allows the wearer to communicate with teammates.

• Hard protective shell/insert elbow pads — They should have a snug, comfortable fit, because elbow pads often last longer than other protective gear.

• Hard protective shell/insert knee pads— Get ones that are cushioned for function over fashion, because skaters land most of their falls on their knees.

• Hard protective shell/insert wrist guards — They should provide good palm and stable wrist protection, because hand and wrist injuries are fairly common due to players’ catching themselves.

Featured photo: Nicole “Punky” Mavrogeorge Wehry makes plans to evade Maine Roller Derby’s blockers as she skates into the fray. Photo by Todd Grzywacz.

A fair time for the Faire

New Hampshire Renaissance Faire is back for 19th year of medieval fun

Take a few hours to step back into the 1500s, or into a fantasy novel. From jousting knights to traditional Celtic music, the New Hampshire Renaissance Faire will have it all.

The Faire is back, for two weekends only, to bring medieval fun for everyone in the Granite State. Danny Scialdone, the manager of the Faire, said this was pretty unusual for Renaissance Faires.

“The original founder had been involved in Renaissance Fairs for many years, up until the point when she was a mother,” Scialdone said. “She didn’t pay attention to the adult-themed things. She was like, ‘Wow, I want to bring something forward where parents can bring their kids.’”

While not every aspect of the New Hampshire Renaissance Faire is family-friendly, Scialdone said that the events that are geared for a more mature audience are clearly marked everywhere.

In addition to keeping a large portion of the activities geared toward age-inclusivity, Scialdone said that any additional kids’ activities, like a segment called Tea with the Queen, come at no additional costs to families.

“We try to make it inclusive and try to enjoy a really fun atmosphere,” Scialdone said.

Part of the atmosphere is having theme days, Scialdone said. On Saturday, May 13, it will be pirates versus ninjas; Sunday, May 14, will be the Celic and Norse day; Saturday, May 20, will be fairy and fae day, and Sunday, May 21, will be the Dungeons and Dragons day. Scialdone said people should dress up in costumes to match the themes, and he encouraged visitors to go all out.

“We even had a guy dressed fully up as a unicorn one year,” Scialdone said, adding that people should “have a good time and be a part of the Faire.”

This year, for the first time, the Faire will be renting costumes out to visitors who either didn’t dress up or didn’t know where to start with building a costume.

In addition to making the Faire as affordable as they can, Scialdone said the price for admission doesn’t just cover the entrance fee for the event, but any extra proceeds will go to New Hampshire Food Bank.

Last year, the Faire reached a lifetime milestone of $250,000 raised for the bank, since 2011. They also provided food to more than 100,000 people. Scialdone said that was his favorite part of the Faire, getting to know that he was helping to give more than just a fun experience.

“You’re absolutely getting more than what you give … getting to feed 100,000 people, that’s the biggest take-away,” said Scialdone

New Hampshire Renaissance Faire
Where: 80 Martin Road, Fremont
When: Saturday, May 13; Sunday, May 14; Saturday May 20, and Sunday, May 21, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Price: Starting from $15
Visit: nhrenfaire.com

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