CONWAY — This past Fourth of July holiday weekend, visitors to the Mount Washington Valley showed that the need to vacation and reconnect with friends and family was stronger than a rainy forecast. While the weekend’s weather was problematic, valley businesses reported strong numbers and an increase in the number of extended families traveling together.

Activities that had to be put on hold last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic — the July Fourth fireworks in Fryeburg, North Conway, Jackson and Gorham, and a parade in Conway, were well attended.

Michelle Cruz, assistant director of the MWV Chamber, said the “energy of the fireworks event was so joyful and great. You could really tell that people were happy to be out celebrating and enjoying activities as a family.

“It’s this attitude that makes us hopeful for a full return to normalcy, and makes us especially thankful to all the businesses, and people who are working so hard to make that happen,” Cruz said.

As the valley continues to leave the restrictions and barriers behind that COVID-19 placed on travel and tourism in 2020, this year will prove to be interesting as businesses track their numbers.

Many of them are using 2019 numbers as a bench mark, as 2020’s capacity restrictions make any comparison difficult.

With that said, businesses saw an increase in visitors.

Rob Arey of the Mount Washington Cog Railway said the attraction saw a 19 percent increase from the first five days of July 2021, as compared to July of 2019. While the rain did affect its traffic, sales were still up.

Lauren Hawkins, marketing director for both Living Shores Aquarium and Story Land in Glen, said overall attendance was strong for both attractions.

“Living Shores Aquarium had three very strong attendance days and sold out every morning,” according to Hawkins, noting it offers an option for “guests looking to get out and do something, but stay dry.”

Beth Scrimger of Mystery NH also saw high traffic, with the rain driving families to seek indoor activities. All game slots were booked for the holiday weekend.

Donna Pearce, owner of the Admiral Peary Bed and Breakfast, said one family booked the entire inn and made full use of the inn’s grounds by setting up umbrellas by the fire pit, and playing lawn games when the rain held off.

Jen Kovach, owner of Snowvillage Inn in Eaton, also noted that inn guests “were traveling with family and friends, booked multiple rooms, and for longer stays.”

Peter Gagne, owner of Beach Camping Area and Saco Canoe Rental Co, is also seeing the theme of families using their vacations as reunions, traveling with large groups of extended family.

While Saco Canoe Rental was hit hard by the rain, with 80 percent of his reservations canceling due to the weather, the rainfall helped alleviate record low water levels he was seeing on the river. It also provided the rental center the opportunity to give staff a well-earned break after a record breaking month in June.

Staffing still proves to be a challenge, but valley businesses continue to be creative as they meet the rate of visitor demand. Management from many businesses that responded to the chamber’s survey said their staff has risen to this challenge to ensure guests have a great vacation in the valley.

With consumer confidence continuing to solidify when it comes to the safety of travel, and families and friends looking to connect after a year apart, the summer shows that even in the wake of poor weather, the opportunity for success remains strong.

For complete trip planning resources and information, go to mtwashingtonvalley.org or call (800) 367-3364 (800-DO-SEE-NH) to talk to a Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce rep.

To learn more about New Hampshire vacations, go to visitnh.gov.

Jaimie Crawford is public relations manager for the Mt. Washington Valley Chamber of Commerce.

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