WHAT A FIRECRACKER OF A FOURTH OF JULY!

We spoke with Lt. Chris Mattei of the Conway Police Department Friday morning, and he said both he and Conway Parks and Recreation Department Director John Eastman agreed there were as many as 10,000 people in North Conway’s Schouler Park and surrounding areas for the festivities and fireworks on Independence Day Thursday, one of the biggest crowds in recent memory (no doubt equaling the town of Conway’s 250th in 2015).

He added that the grand finale for the fireworks “had to be the best” he could remember.

Traffic on the North-South Road has equaled the lines of people backing up at all local ice cream shops, so you know this has been a blockbuster holiday week.

Concerning the crowds in the park, I spoke with Tom Barber of Our Lady of the Mountains Knights of Columbus, and he said they couldn’t keep up with the demand for hot pretzels.

Given the second day of 90-degree heat, that was surprising, but hey, that probably led to a lot of water sales as well.

I roved around the park beginning about 5 p.m. after getting a cold refreshment at the nearby and always scenic North Conway Country Club, and I couldn’t believe how many people were there to hear the great music. True, crowds were sparse early on, when Robin Croce sang "The Star-Spangled Banner” at 3:45 p.m., but they grew by the time other acts performed and the heat became more tolerable.

Performers included Act One Dance Company, the now red-haired and very gifted young Riley Parkhurst and her dad, Dan; Bobby Sheehan of Arts Jubilee’s band Junco (playing some great Steely Dan); and local singer Candie Tremblay and Fighting Fiction, who really rocked and had as much spunk and talent as any of the performers I saw later on TV at the gala performances in Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C.

Candie — daughter of Jackie and stepdaughter of Conway Daily Sun pressroom manager Frank Haddy — performed some hip-hop and R & B with spirit and attitude. One of her hot numbers was Four Non Blondes’ “What’s Up.” She was totally at home on stage with her Portland-based bandmates, and it was a joy to see her pleasing the crowd with her rich voice.

The band consisted of guitarist (and band founder) Andy Demmons, drummer Tyler Arnold (a graduate of Fryeburg Academy), bassist Josh Prescott and Amanda Ray Tubbs, backup vocalist.

Other of their well-received numbers were “No Roots,” by Alice Merton, and Elle King’s “Ex’s and Oh’s.”

It made for a great night of danceable rock ’n roll at Schouler Park, and kudos to John Eastman and staff for hiring such a talented bunch.

Everywhere you went, it was busy, with Lynda and Paul Schuepp of the Penguin saying it had been busy since opening that morning, and Larry Flaherty of the Met saying it was crazy busy as well. “I can’t wait for the fireworks to come!” laughed Larry as he and staff served iced coffee and other treats to crowds of patrons.

It was interesting to notice that the parking lot was full for the former In-Town IGA/Movie Gallery on Kearsarge Street, which has instituted a paid parking program for its lot with customers required to pay $8 cash under new owner Brian Fram’s new experimental policy.

THE NIGHT BEFORE, I had the pleasure of stopping by the North Conway Country Club to take in sunset views and the music on the deck, which is held every Wednesday evening from 5:30- 8 p.m. Performing was the always solid and multi-generations-appealing Al “the Rev” Shafner. Performing July 10 is Rafe Matregano. It’s a great summer experience, so be sure to check it out.

As we always like to say, the Ledgeview Grill is one of the best-kept secrets in town, and Cheryl (Pettengill) Emerson and her staff do a great job.

Among those in the audience was Katy Bailey, who recently took a post with the Epilepsy Foundation of New England, and Andrea LaRusso of the Root Cellar, who told us she has joined the legions of local pickleball enthusiasts.

IN OTHER HAPPENINGS, host Jonathan Sarty and the Cold River Radio Show enjoyed a a sold-out show at Theater in the Wood in Intervale Sunday. Among the highlights was the incredible guitar playing by legendary Maine virtuoso Denny Breau, who was all smiles all night because he enjoyed playing so much with the stellar Cold River Radio Band.

“I think we need to set up an arrangement where Denny can come and be a guest guitarist with the Cold River Radio Band at least once a year,” laughed Jonathan.

The other highlights of the show was the return of former valley resident Lauren Sansaricq (aka Miss Maybell), who was joined by the Jazz Age Artistes in a splendorous musical trip to the days of Gasoline Alley and the 1930s with her washboard music, kazoo and great vocals (how such a BIG voice comes from such a petite person I’ll never know!), accompanied by Kaia Updike on violin and honky-tonk pianist Charlie Judkins.

Everyone headed back to the Wildcat Tavern for the post-show, featuring Miss Maybell and the Jazz Artistes.

Lauren told me her landscape art painting career also continues to do well in upstate New York and that she also is performing up to five days in New York City, so she is busy!

IN OTHER MUSIC, Wildcat Inn and Tavern owner Stu Dunlop and Jonathan Sarty announced at Acoustic Nuisance’s Cold River mini Radio Show on June 22 that they’ll be bringing back the White Mountain Songwriters’ Showcase in September. Based out of the Wildcat, it will be a weeklong songwriters’ songwriting camp with performances, too.

Stu said he also has been talking with Terry and George O’Brien of the Red Parka Pub and other local venues to try to bring in some more national caliber acts to the region. Nice to hear, and long live the valley’s rich musical heritage!

BIG DRAWING: Buddy Nicholas tells me that American Legion Post 46 of Conway will be holding its drawing at 6 p.m. tonight for its $5,000 raffle top prize. Proceeds benefit the post’s efforts to host the “Wall That Heals” Vietnam Moving Wall visit to Post 46 this Aug. 8 through 11.

A total of 200 tickets are being sold, with the top prize of $5,000, second prize of $3,000 and third prize of $2,000. For more information, call Nicholas at (603) 662-2320, email nnicholas1299@gmail.com or call Post 46 at (603) 447-3927.

ALTHOUGH SOME PASSENGERS were upset with delays on the Conway Scenic Railroad’s steam locomotive ride through Crawford Notch last Saturday for its “Trains, Planes and Automobiles” excursion to the White Mountain Regional Airport in Whitefield, this train-loving journalist could not have been any happier, riding beside CSRR co-founder Dwight Smith and former operations manager Paul Hallett and friends.

I am sorry we missed the stunt pilot show at the airport, but it was an ambitious undertaking to take a 1921-built steam locomotive and expect everything to go on schedule and exactly as planned. Refunds were offered to many.

I salute CSRR President/owner David Swirk and staff for trying — as we reported previously, the CSRR will bring the “Trains, Planes and Automobiles” excursion next year but will probably use diesel.

IN HAPPY BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK, we salute one and all, including (belatedly) Norman Head of Badger Realty and my late brother/Mountain Ear co-founder Steve Eastman (1949-2008), who would have turned 70 on July 5. Thanks to Mark Johnson of WMWV 93.5-FM, as he played Bob Dylan and The Band’s “Forever Young” on Steve’s birthday Friday in tribute. It’s a song that Tom Dean and Alana MacDonald of Devonsquare performed at Steve’s service in May 2008.

We also wish happy birthdays to: Spruce Hurricane’s Amber Dalton, Realtor Magrie MacDonald and Sandra Wentworth Iacozili (today); Jeff Butler, Robin Lucy, Candi Kane (7-7); sister Jeanie Eastman Ryan and Cranmore’s Glenn Harmon (7-8); Bill Evatte, Charlie Sutton, 1968 Grenoble XC Olympian Jack Lufkin and the Obs’ Krissy Fraser (half-century mark) (all 7-9); Jim Savoie, Michell DeLucia, mountain biker Peter Ostroski and the Sun’s Jeannie Cafarelli (7-10); valley volunteer Marshall Allan (7-11); Jackson’s Heath McCrea Doucette and M&D’s Ashley Kerr (7-12) and all others.

EAR TALK : In closing, I have been asked to give another talk on the history of the Mountain Ear, “Through The Ears,” by the Conway Historical Society on Tuesday, July 9, at 7 p.m. at the Conway Congregational Church (Brown Church). Hope to see you there! For details, call (603) 447-5551 or go to conwayhistoricalsociety.org.

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