red parka

Terry O'Brien, co-owner and longtime community-minded general manager of the Red Parka Pub in Glen, is shown Friday as she and managers sadly prepared the famous hospitality establishment for a temporary closure of undetermined length. (COURTESY PHOTO)

THE NEW normal continues in this suddenly quiet spring, with COVID-19 thrust into our valley way of life. Sweatpants (for 9 a.m.-6 p.m. work hours) and pajamas (for dinner and relaxation) have become preferred clothing for stay-at-home workers.

It’s a crazy time, but there are many uplifting stories in our valley, where spirit and neighborliness have never been in short supply.

As we all have heard, Gov. Sununu on Thursday took action to close all non-essential businesses effective Friday night.

We salute first responders, medical staff and community leaders. And not to be overlooked, my fellow media brothers and sisters, especially here at the Sun and WMWV.

Hope you heard station owner Greg Frizzell and deejay Gino Devaney interview Memorial Hospital President Art Mathison and medical director Dr. Matthew Dunn on the reformatted live “Drive Time” Wednesday at 5 p.m.

Following Gov. Sununu’s March 16 emergency order, telling restaurants and bars to serve patrons only by takeout, delivery and drive-through, many local eateries are still offering curbside delivery of meals. Patrons are helping out by buying gift certificates and tipping extra.

Sadly for those of us who love live music, especially classic rock and the blues, the venerable Red Parka Pub in lovely downtown Glen will remain closed until further notice, due to the coronavirus restrictions.

On Friday, I called co-owner/general manager/longtime friend Terry O’Brien.

Always a valley trouper, Terry said, “Everybody is in the same boat. I think our guests and friends and regulars have been wonderful as they have supported us through gift cards sales. The short time that we did takeout, they were there for us, and they still are for the valley restaurants that are still open.

“So all of us will try and stick it out the best we can, but it is hard.”

Asked why she chose to close, Terry said it was a matter of revenue coming in versus the expenses to heat the building and pay staff. It also is a matter of safety for employees.

The closure impacts 35 employees.

It marks the first time since 1972, when Terry’s parents, Jeanne Melczarek and the late Dewey Mark, and Lois (Nelson) Hatch and the late Al Neslon opened the Red Parka, that the popular establishment has been closed, other than for repair work.

“I can’t imagine what my (late) dad is thinking. I wish he were here,” said Terry.

Sadly falling victim to coronavirus precautions was the 47th annual Red Parka Pub Challenge Cup, which would have taken place at Attitash March 20. (Vail Resorts closed all its resorts, including Attitash and Wildcat).

“Last year, we raised $22,000 (for the official beneficiary, the Eastern Slope Ski Club Junior Program),” Terry said. “This year, we had already paid expenses out for it except for the mountain, so we will be lucky if we will be able to give the ESSC $3,000-$4,000 this year. Many racers had started raising pledges, but a lot of it is raised the last week before the race and in raffles the week of the race.”

But, she said, “Almost every one of the racers has decided they will donate what they already paid in registration or they will use it for next year’s race, so that is pretty amazing. I am telling everyone we will do a ‘redo’ next year, with the same prizes and even trophies with 2020 on it — we will leave it on there as a reminder of this year.”

Like all of us in the valley, she and husband George O’Brien are sad that the Red Parka Blues Sunday also had to be discontinued for now. “It’s been tough for all local musicians. I see some — such as Rafe Matregrano and Ryan St. Onge — have done online concerts where people have left tips,” said Terry.

As for Gov. Sununu’s order closing non-essential businesses, Terry — former president of the New Hampshire Lodging and Restaurant Association — said: “I am glad the governor did what he did. It is a dreadful situation, and it had to be done. I am not sure he is done with making us safe as it is changing all the time. But we have got to keep doing what we have to do (to address this). Hopefully, we all will be safe.” Amen to all of that.

IN LIGHT OF ALL OF THIS, it’s more important than ever to be helpful to one another, and for those marking birthdays this week, we wish a Happy Birthday to one and all, including: the RPP’s Bridget Reardon, First Allied’s Susan O’Sullivan MacDonald, McGrath’s Seammus McGrath (the big 4-0); Mark Patterson, former John H. Fuller Elementary Principal Mark Zangari and pianist Norm Smith of Full Circle (all today); the Berlin Sun’s Rita Dube and Fryeburg, Maine, community activist Donna Woodward (3-29); talented longtime writer Karen Cummings, history writer Phil Franklin of the Bartlett Historical Society and Chocorua’s Kerry Guptill (3-30); avid cross-country skier and biker Lisa Venditti, Cranmore veteran photographer Drew Phillips (all April Fools, 4-1); former Them Fargo Brothers lead singer/guitarist Bill Madison, now of Florida, and Realtor Bill Lydon (4-2); and David Ainsworth and Mud Bowl Hoggette alum Lori Sanborn (4-3).

BE SURE TO CAST your vote in the WMWV 93.5 “Song of the Year” contest by the end of the month by going to Finalists are Bennett and Perkins (“Stella”); Candie Tremblay (“My Angel”); Brackettology (“Twinkies”); previous winners The Starlight Honeys (“ Haven’t Been Alone”); and Parish Dawe (“I’ve Been Good”). Winners will be announced in early April.

IF YOU NEED A good picker-upper (and don’t we all?), go to the video on Facebook posted this week by local favorites Dennis (O’Neil) and Davey (Armstrong) (aka Four Feet, Two Shoes) playing a spirited cover of Steve Earle’s “Galway Girl” at one of their past performances at Jackson’s beloved Shannon Door Pub. As Davey quipped on the post, “As always, the goal is to make as much bloody noise as possible.” It’s almost (but not quite) as good as being there.

CHECK OUT Tin Mountain Conservation Center’s First season festival’s first-ever online auction, March 28-April 5, at tinmountain,org.

STAY SAFE AND be well. We will get through this — alone physically, perhaps, but together spiritually, as one valley.

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