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Cheshire Fair kicks off Thursday with new entertainment

NORTH SWANZEY — The Cheshire Fair returns for its 81st year Thursday, starting with children’s discount day, when kids 5 through 11 get free admission.

Gates are set to open at 8 a.m. on each of the fair’s four days, followed by the national anthem and then opening acts and events, such as the 4-H goat show Thursday at 9 a.m.

New attractions include a group showing of antique engines and equipment, and a poultry show, featuring chickens and geese for viewing throughout the four days.

Each exhibitor is allowed to sell birds if they wish, and must abide by strict standards, according to Christine Bryer, a Stoddard resident and superintendent of the poultry show.

“It’s exhibition poultry, a national-breed standard like you have with dogs ... so the shows are nationally recognized by the American Poultry Association and American Bantam Association,” Bryer said.

Boxes will be offered to take the birds home, but they must be taken straight from the sale, Bryer said.

Also new this year is the Pine Meadow Children’s Zoo with exotic animals, llamas, alpacas and goats, said John Kenney, a board member and head of entertainment for the fair. Although the fair had a petting zoo a few years ago, he said, this year’s is bigger.

Yet another addition is a tricks-based horse show — the aptly named Horsing Around Show — which is scheduled for three performances on each of the fair’s days.

And beyond the usual truck and tractor pulls, this year will feature pulls by tractor-trailers and motorcycles/trikes.

Another improvement, according to Kenney, will be a professional stage with shows each night by local bands.

“We spent a lot more on our entertainment this year,” Kenney said. “... We’re really trying to bring life into this area.”

Acts scheduled for the fair include but aren’t limited to Norman Smith, Becca Santacroce, Matt Maserve, The Ticket and Tom Foolery.

As for kid-friendly entertainment, Princess Belle will be making an appearance this year, according to Kenney, along with puppets and jugglers.

The annual Little Miss Cheshire Fair contest is slated for Thursday at 4 p.m.

Other mainstays, like the oxen pull and demolition derby, along with novelties such as the butterfly tent, will also return, according to the pamphlet for this year’s fair.

“We do have all this new stuff, but we also have all the favorites that have always been here,” Kenney said.

The demolition derby is one of the last events on the docket for the weekend, starting Sunday at 5 p.m.

Fireworks are set for Thursday at 9:30 p.m. with festivities running until Sunday at 8 p.m.

The fair takes place at the Cheshire Fairgrounds on the corner of Route 12 and Safford Drive in North Swanzey. More information is available at cheshirefair.org.

On tap for Thursday

8 a.m., gates open; national anthem

9 a.m., Matt Maserve (Cheshire Tavern stage); 4-H goat show (Cheshire Barn)

10 a.m., Horsing Around Show (midway); Norman Smith (Pine Grove stage); oxen show, class 1 through 10 (arena); butterfly tent opens; 4-H beef show (cattle ring)

10:30 a.m., 4-H small animal show (Monadnock Barn)

11 a.m., Fun with Princess Belle (community stage)

11:30 a.m., CW trials bicycle stunt show (midway)

noon, cupcake-eating contest (community stage)

1 p.m., midway opens; pedal power pull (community stage)

1:30 p.m., Becca Santacroce (Pine Grove stage)

2 p.m., Horsing Around Show (midway)

2:30 p.m., Pirate Man Dan (community stage)

3 p.m., 4-H dairy show (cattle ring); farm tractor pull (grandstands); CW trials bicycle stunt show (midway); oxen pull, 1,400-1,600 pounds (arena)

3:30 p.m., Norman Smith (Cheshire Tavern stage)

4 p.m., Little Miss Cheshire Fair (community stage)

4:15 p.m., Summer Lily Brown (Pine Grove stage)

5 p.m., oxen pull, 2,000 pounds (arena); Black Diamond Band (Pine Grove stage)

5:30 p.m., Pirate Man Dan (community stage)

6 p.m., dairy pee-wee showmanship cattle (cattle ring); Horsing Around Show (midway)

7 p.m., CW trials bicycle stunt show (midway); oxen pull, 2,400 pounds (arena)

7:30 p.m., farm tractor pull/hot farm tractor pull (grandstands); The Ticket (Cheshire Tavern stage)

9:30 p.m., fireworks

10 p.m., midway closes


Michael Moore / Sentinel Staff 

Ankara Rose’s dance group of Wilton performs in the street at Riverfest in Jaffrey Saturday. Other events included dancing by Aduco, music, the Roaming Railroad, face painting and more. The annual festival is sponsored by Team Jaffrey.


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Due to destruction, answers unlikely in Swanzey blaze

SWANZEY — It is still not clear what caused the blaze that destroyed two homes Saturday night, according to a Swanzey fire official. And in all likelihood, it won’t ever be, Fire Inspector Eric Mattson said Monday.

The extent of the destruction means the fire’s cause will likely remain undetermined, Mattson said. It is not considered suspicious.

The fire at the Pine Grove Mobile Home Park off Route 10 was called in at 9:51 p.m. Two homes on Anthony Circle were fully engulfed when firefighters arrived, and the fire was extending to two adjacent structures, the Swanzey Fire Department said in a news release Sunday.

Five residents from three homes were displaced, according to the department.

On Monday afternoon, one of those residents stood before a mess of charred wood and twisted metal — all that was left of his home of 13 years.

“There’s nothing salvageable,” said the man, who asked to be identified only as Mike. “It’s all burnt. I lost everything.”

He said he had about a minute and a half to escape the smoke-filled house after waking up. His two cats, Betty Lou and Peggy Sue, died in the fire.

“They were my world. I don’t care about any of this,” he said, nodding at the wreckage.

He said he buried them on a nearby hill where they used to play — “where they most liked to be.”

Mike called the community support “amazing.” His truck was filled with donated clothing and other supplies, and he said his boss had offered him time off and a place to stay. Other mobile-home co-ops contacted the Pine Grove board about donating to a fund. Meanwhile, Mike said, some of the people who drove by Sunday to look at the carnage stopped to give him cash.

Next door, Mike DiMeglio’s home was still standing, with visible damage to one exterior wall. But DiMeglio doubts it will be habitable, due to smoke and water damage. He and his wife, Joan, are living in a hotel.

“We’re thankful that we’re alive,” he said.

The blackened beams of a third house remained upright. The fire had gutted the home’s inside and destroyed most of the walls.

Charlotte Frazier said she and Earl Dwire were displaced from the residence. "When I came out of there the flames were over my head," she said. 

Two other mobile homes nearby were affected, Skantze said Monday. Firefighters put water on one just as its siding was beginning to ignite, he said, while some of the siding melted on the other, across the street.

The Pine Grove co-op board has launched a fundraising campaign for those affected by the fire, said Cheryl Martin, a park resident who’s helping the board with the campaign. A TD Bank account has been set up to receive donations, which can be made via Facebook at facebook.com/donate/1358777307624543.

The campaign is also accepting gift cards for local stores, which according to the Red Cross are more helpful than direct donations of clothing and other goods, Martin said. Gift cards can be dropped off at the park’s office or mailed to Pine Grove Mobile Home Park, 2 Eastview Drive in Swanzey, she said.

Meanwhile, the board has also been reaching out to local businesses about putting out donation jars, and a number have agreed, according to Martin.

She said the co-op is hoping to channel the huge outpouring of support — which includes numerous offers to donate and several independent GoFundMe pages — into an organized fundraising effort.

“It’s amazing the number of people that are just wanting to help,” she said.

Hinsdale resident Linda O’Melia set up one of the GoFundMe pages.

She said her father lives nearby, and the fire’s victims had all helped him in one way or another. “I wanted to do something for them to help them in their time of need,” she wrote in an email.

This article has been updated to include information about the Pine Grove co-op's fundraising efforts and additional names of people affected by the fire.


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Former UNH president continued to earn full salary after retirement

DURHAM — Former University of New Hampshire president Mark Huddleston continued to collect a $425,000 salary in the year after he retired from his position in June 2018.

That put Huddleston slightly behind UNH’s current president, Jim Dean, who earns $455,000 a year since taking over for Huddleston last summer.

According to Huddleston’s employment contract, acquired by NHPR through a right-to-know request, he was eligible for 12 months of “transitional pay,” including benefits, after he retired. The pay for that year would be equal to Huddelston’s base salary in his final year as UNH president. That contract says Huddleston’s transitional period was meant to be spent conducting research and other “professional development” activities.

Huddleston did not return multiple requests for comment regarding his post-retirement role with UNH.

Officials at UNH and the University System of New Hampshire declined to be interviewed for this story, saying they could not talk about individual employees. Instead, USNH Communications Director Lisa Thorne provided brief written statements on UNH’s behalf, indicating that Huddleston assisted with the UNH presidential transition after his retirement.

“Senior leaders at UNH engaged Mark Huddleston to discuss a range of issues and topics to ensure continuity and to provide historical background and context,” the statement read.

According to Huddleston’s contract, he was only eligible for a year of transitional pay if he planned to return to teaching in the University System following the expiration of his contract. While serving as UNH president, Huddleston was also a tenured full professor in political science, allowing him to continue at UNH if he decided to do so. UNH Political Science Department Chair Mary Malone said Huddleston isn’t scheduled to teach in the department this year.

Instead, according to UNH’s written statement, Huddleston is scheduled to work with UNH Professional Development and Training, an office with the university that leads career workshops, conferences and seminars. But the details of Huddleston’s employment there have not been settled, Thorne said.

“Among other things, he will be participating in the development of the Annual Leadership and Management Conference and co-instructing the Applied Leadership Institute,” according to a university statement provided by Thorne.

UNH’s policy on administrators returning to the faculty, which is cited in Huddleston’s contract, states that he could receive the greater amount of either: “a starting academic year faculty salary no higher than the highest paid faculty member of the same academic rank in the department/discipline (excluding any former administrators who returned to the faculty under conditions of the old policy)” or his “UNH academic year salary immediately prior to the administrative appointment adjusted upward by the contractually obligated annual percentage increases.”

Before Huddleston’s selection as UNH president in 2007, he served as president at Ohio Wesleyan University, and did not have a position at UNH prior to that administrative appointment.

According to the most recent USNH salary book, the highest-paid faculty member in the Professional Development and Training department is its director Chris LaBelle, whose base pay is $112,600.

Top-ranking administrators within the University System of New Hampshire have typically been among the highest paid public officials in the state. In 2018, the highest-paid public official outside of the University System was Chief Medical Examiner Jennie Duval, who earned a salary of $209,999. By comparison, Gov. Chris Sununu was paid $133,587 and New Hampshire Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Lynn earned $116,418, according to state salary records.

Raymond Cotton, a Washington-based lawyer who has written hundreds of contracts for college and university presidents across the country, said the provisions in Huddleston’s contract for his transitional period and return to teaching were vague.

“It’s poorly worded,” Cotton said. “Oftentimes, provisions like this are very specific, and they say, ‘after a presidency is over, you shall have a year of sabbatical to prepare yourself to get ready to teach,’ and it’ll say where.”

However, Cotton said, it’s very common for college presidents to have generous contracts like this, especially for a state’s flagship university.

“One reason [for a transitional pay year] is, if they don’t offer it, the president doesn’t come,” Cotton said. “It’s part of the total compensation package that’s negotiated [at the time of hiring] ... This is a fairly standard benefit for a CEO.”

The contract for UNH’s current president, Dean, indicates he isn’t being offered the same perks as Huddleston.

Should he choose to return to teaching upon leaving the president’s office, Dean’s contract states that he would be a full professor in the university’s Paul College of Business and Economics. His transitional salary would only span a six-month period, as opposed to the year-long period offered to Huddleston. And that salary would be at a rate associated with the teaching position and determined through collective bargaining.

James Finkelstein, who studies college president contracts at George Mason University in Virginia, said transitional salaries like Huddleston’s are becoming more common at public colleges. He said the issue needs further scrutiny.

“The real question is, why would a university president be treated much more favorably than any other state official in New Hampshire?” Finkelstein said. “Because public funds are involved in that payment, at least to a certain degree.”

UNH did not respond to questions about which pool of funds administrative salaries come from by the time this story was published.