The 'Best of the Valley' is all around us

By Tom Eastman

AS THE NATION responds to all of the craziness going on down there in Malfunction Junction (aka Washington, D.C.) with the FBI, the Trump Administration and Congress regarding Russia and the election, we send out a hearty and fragrant spring at-long-last greeting to you and your favorite lilac blossom. The valley has truly come alive with the return of sunny skies and hot temperatures this week.

It has always been a favorite time of the year, with the bright greens and blossoms set against the backdrop of snow-covered Ol' Agiocochook (aka Mount Washington) as you walk up the sidewalks on North Conway's Main Street, taking in the sweet fragrances of purple lilacs, the state flower of the Granite State.

In my boyhood years in Portsmouth, riding my bike around Strawberry Banke and other historical sites, I learned that the oldest lilacs in the United States are at the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion, the colonial mansion of Royal Gov. Benning Wentworth, who had them planed around his home there on Little Harbor in 1750. I have kayaked past the mansion in more recent years, and have always marveled at the sweet fragrance of the lilac in season, a wonderful reminder of just one of the many reasons why we are proud of our state's rich cultural heritage.



HOME, GARDEN FLOWERS: You can learn about lilacs and other plants by heading over to the 17th annual Home Garden Flower Show at the Fryeburg Fairgrounds May 19 through 21.

Coordinator/longtime friend Karla Ficker reports that the show features seven buildings and more than 300 booths, including the ever-popular "Meet the Chefs" cooking series (always one of my favorites), a craft beer and wine and cheese pavilion, and an indoor farmers' market. And that's just for starters.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., today and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10; 10 and under admitted free. For more, visit or call (207) 935-2845.

See you there! This is like the spring version of the Fryeburg Fair, where you run into friends from near and far.

I CAUGHT Cormac McCarthy and Sammie Haynes' intimate, up-close-and- personal barn concert at innkeepers Kimball and Neysa Packard's Chocorua Farmstand B&B last Saturday night, and it was like something out of Garrison Keillor's "Lake Wobegon" of PBS' "A Prairie Home Companion."

After Kimball and staff served up some eats outdoors, awards were handed out to the winners of the Wet Paint Invitational, celebrating the nearly two dozen plein air (outdoor) artists from around the Northeast who came to Tamworth last week to paint local scenes such as Mount Chocorua in a promotion organized by the Tamworth Economic Council.

Then, Cormac and Sammie performed in the barn, illuminated by Christmas lights. At the start of his first set, Cormac explained that he had a bovine heart valve installed this past January —which lent an added ironic dimension to his comedic tune, "Cows" from his "Troubled Sleep" CD. Among the lyrics? "Cows are pasteurized. Cows are homogenized. Cows have bedroom eyes..."

You get the drift. He says since the operation, all he wants to do is munch on his and his neighbor's lawn.

THE NEXT NIGHT, host Jonathan Sarty and staff presented yet another stellar Cold River (Mother's Day) Radio Show, which featured Jonathan crooning American songbook classics backed by the Cold River Radio Band.

The show was well-attended, despite the night's cold rain, and featured superb performances by The Small Glories, comprised of talented Canadian folksingers Cara Luft and JD Edwards, Celtic reels and jigs by the White Mountain Ceili Band, a fascinating interview about GMOs with Portland writer Caitlin Shetterly, author of "Modified," a first hand look at the state of global agricultural and the effects of genetically modified foods; the return of Cold River Radio favorite storyteller Jo Radner, talking about pies and family political dynamics; and a really funny skit by Massachusetts comedian Paul D'Angelo, who told some hilarious stories from a Bay State perspective about what it's like to venture into the Granite State, including trying to learn how to ski at Mount Cranmore many years ago with some of his buddies. (Amazingly, according to his bio, D'Angelo's real last name is Murphy, and it turns out his occupation while he was building his reputation as a comedian was as an assistant district attorney — believe it not. Imagine: a funny attorney. Go figure.)

The next Cold River Radio Show will be July 9. In the meantime, remember: WMWV 93.5-FM presents the taped broadcast of shows the last Sunday morning of each month at 9 a.m.

BOOTS AND BLING returns to the White Mountain Hotel and Resort May 20 for the benefit of Starting Point, and it's prom weekend at the Attitash Grand Summit Friday, May 19, for Fryeburg Academy students and Saturday, May 20, at the North Conway Grand for Kennett High students. Hope they all have a great Red Carpet experience!

RED BLUES: Speaking of red, George O'Brien invites all blues lovers to the Red Parka Pub (383-4344) in beautiful downtown Glen Sunday night, May 21, for the next installment of the Sunday Blues Series. This show will be a doozie, featuring old favorite Sugar Ray and the Blue Tones from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Host/fan Roy "the Skiing DJ" Prescott played some great Sugar Ray tunes on his "Blues Summit" radio show this past Wednesday night. Bring your dancing shoes!

IN HAPPY BIRTHDAYS, WE salute one and all, including (belatedly) Kiwanian Pete Levesque and attorney Bonnie Gould, ski instructor scribe John Macdonald, Rep. Jerry Knirk, Kit Morgan, Steve Frost (all May 17); the Sun's Bart Bachman, Sandy Stowell and Bill Connolly (May 18); the Conway Area Humane Society's Virginia Moore, Patrick Preece, Christmas Farm's Sandra Plourde, Maureen Westrick-Forbes (all today, May 19), hockey ace Jim Terry, John Sledzinski and my spirited and talented niece Sophie Rose Riopel (all May 20); fat tire biker Ralph Jackson, Realtor Antonella Bliss (May 21); biker Dave O'Brien and Elizabeth Estey (May 22); pianist/Kismet climber Mike Jewell, Paula Churchill and Pickleballer Clare Grabher (May 24); Jackson ski historian Susan May (May 25), and Hannes Schneider, Nancy Greenblatt Shappell and Elise Edgerton (May 26).

SEE YOU MAY 23 AT THE MWV Chamber of Commerce's Expo 17 at the North Conway Community Center from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 23, and then be sure to mosey over to the adjacent North Conway County Club for the Conway Daily Sun's second annual "Best of the Mount Washington Valley" awards party beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Just getting to call this beautiful, blossoming place home is the "Best of the Valley" if you ask me. As friend/author Tom Ryan says, "Onward, by all means!