Southern New Hampshire Life

Southern New Hampshire Blog by Steve Russo, Realtor

Southern New Hampshire Life - Southern New Hampshire Blog by Steve Russo, Realtor

New Hampshire Agricultural Fairs

As we’re approaching fall, New Hampshire’s agricultural fairs will soon be here. The state boasts dozens of fairs; here are the three that many consider to be the best:

The Hopkinton State Fair is usually Labor Day weekend.  This year it runs from Thursday August 30th through Monday September 3rd; the fairgrounds are located on Route 103 in Contoocook near the Hopkinton High School.  The fair will have one of the largest livestock exhibits in New England, a farmyard animal petting area, home and garden exhibits, and horse and pony wagon rides. Other entertainment will include comedians, bands, truck and tractor pulls, a demolition derby, and New England biggest carnival midway. Hours: Thursday through Sunday 8AM – 11PM; Monday 8AM – 5PM.  Their website is full of information to entice you to attend.

This year’s Hillsborough County Agricultural Fair will be held from Friday September 7th through Sunday September 9th.  It will be at 15 Hill Dale Lane, off of State Route 13, in New Boston. Hours:  Friday Noon to 6; Saturday 8AM to 6PM; Sunday 9AM to 5:30. A true county aggie fair, with many classes for 4-Hers and farmers; cooking, quilting, and photography contests; cow, sheep, rabbit, and goat shows; horse log skidding, oxen pulling, and lawn mower and tractor pulls.  For entertainment there will be amusement rides, square dancing, and many country bands, featuring the Jimmy Lehoux Band.  For a schedule of events and more details click here.

Winding up the fair season is the Deerfield Fair, which will run from Thursday September 27th through Sunday the 30th at the fairgrounds, 34 Stage Road (State Route 43) in Deerfield.  Its hours will be: Thursday – Saturday 8AM – 10PM; Sunday 8AM – 7PM.  The granddaddy of aggie fairs celebrates 136 years this fall. Numerous livestock shows and educational 4-H programs fill all the hours of the fair.  For entertainment, there will be puppeteers, magicians, clowns, singers, country bands, the Flying Wallendas Family Circus, midway rides, pig scrambles, and horse, tractor, and antique tractor pulls.  Campsites are available.  You can find the Deerfield Fair “Information Menu” by clicking here.

There are many other agricultural fairs in New Hampshire.  For a list and links to more information, see the “Visit NH” website.


Country Cuisine 7: The Bedford Village Inn

Bedford, situated as it is next to Manchester, may not appear to be “in the country,” but its residents pride themselves on its small-town New England heritage and character.  This post highlights a well established eatery in Bedford that has long been a focal point for special event and destination dining.

The Bedford Village Inn (BVI) has four choices for dining and drinking, the Dining Room, the Tavern, the Patio, and Corks wine bar.  All feature New England regional cuisine and all may draw upon BVI’s large wine cellar.

Entrance to the Dining Room at the Bedford Village Inn

The Dining Room actually consists of seven adjoining rooms, most with an atmosphere derived from the colonial era building in which they are located.  It is the most formal of the BVI restaurants, with the most extensive menu and hours.  The largest room (near the restaurant’s entrance) is often expansively decorated with holiday or seasonal décor that lends it a very festive air. The menu includes appetizers like soft shell crab, watermelon gazpacho, and foie gras; for entrees, maple du Breton pork chops, 24 oz. porterhouse steak, and house made gnocchi; and desserts like crème brulee, cheesecake, and their celebrated chocolate bag. The Dining Room is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily; on Sundays they have a brunch menu in addition to their usual fare.

The Tavern has a more relaxed atmosphere, emulating a New England tavern, with lighter meals – salads, pizzas, pasta – but one may order from the Dining Room’s menu if one so chooses. Open for lunch and dinner daily.  The outdoor Patio has the same menu and hours as the Tavern, plus Sunday morning hours when it serves the Dining Room’s breakfast menu.

The Tavern Entrance

Corks features selections from BVI’s extensive wine cellar, as well as beer and traditional bar service.   It’s a good choice for wine aficionados, as you can enjoy over twenty wines by the glass from a variety of well-respected wineries, four flight combinations highlighting distinctive growing regions, and from their cruvinet, some of the best wines available anywhere.   A large selection of cheeses, salads, pizzas, and other appetizers and entrees are available to compliment your imbibing experience. Open Tuesday through Saturday starting at 4:30.

The Bedford Village Inn is located at 3 Olde Bedford Way, off of State Route 101.  The Old Bedford Inn operates an inn and has a large function room (the “Great Hall”) in addition to its eateries.  The restaurants’ website runs to several pages.  Reservations are recommended for dinner and encouraged for other times.

23rd Annual Jaffrey Festival of Fireworks

The August 18 2012 fireworks show was cancelled due to a threat sent to the Jaffrey police.  The Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored the fireworks display, has announced on their website that this annual event will no longer be held.  Click here for their announcement.  It is unfortunate that one person’s threat has ended this long running family event.

Just about everyone loves fireworks; they are usually one of the highlights of 4th of July celebrations.  If the recent July 4th display left you wanting for more – don’t despair!  One of the country’s largest fireworks displays is coming to Southern New Hampshire soon!

On Saturday August 18th, the 23rd Annual Jaffrey Festival of Fireworks will be held at the Jaffrey Airport.  New Hampshire is lucky to be the home of Atlas Fireworks, one of the country’s leading designers of fireworks displays.  They are well-known for their colorful pyrotechnic productions in cities throughout the U.S., including Boston and Washington, DC, and even in far-flung places like Shanghai!

Every August in Jaffrey, Atlas Fireworks produces a 30-minute themed fireworks display choreographed with music.  Upwards of 30,000 people come to watch.  If you’re an aficionado of pyrotechnics, plan to come early – doors open at 4 – and the best viewing spots get taken quickly.  To while away the time until the main show, there are typical fair amusements and food stands, and even a skydiving show.   Many attendees bring picnic supplies and camp out on the tarmac.

The theme for this year’s show will be Rock the Stars! It will no doubt be a very memorable program.  Tickets are on sale now; several categories of tickets are available for all sizes of vehicles as well as for walk-ins.  For details on the festival, or to purchase your tickets in advance, see the Jaffrey Chamber of Commerce website.

For photos from previous festivals, click here.

Rhododendron State Park

Located in Fitzwilliam, Rhododendron State Park encompasses over 2,700 acres of native plants, with a 16-acre stand of native rhododendrons (Rhododendron maximum), the largest grouping in northern New England.  The grove was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1982.  The park is also home to wild mountain laurels, heathers, mayflowers, wintergreens, blueberries, and cranberries, all growing under the shade of densely-packed deciduous and evergreen trees.  There are several short hiking trails; the main trail is wheelchair accessible; one trail leads to the top of Little Monadnock Mountain, which is within the park.  Click here for trail maps. 

The wild rhododendrons are usually at their peak in mid-July; check the state park’s bloom report by clicking here.  Please do not expect to see masses of flowers, the way you might see them in a man-made garden; these plants are wild, and receive no fertilizer, cultivation, etc., so blooms may be scarce even in their peak season.  But you will be seeing plants as the first settlers might have found them hundreds of years ago, surrounded by native flora and fauna. Click here for some tips on the best way to experience the park.

For a short video showing the park in bloom, click here.

The area was originally given to the Appalachian Mountain Club in 1903 as an area to be preserved in its natural state; it was turned into a state park in 1946.  A short history of the park is available online.  The park is easily accessible from Rhododendron Road off State Route 119 between Fitzwilliam and Richmond.

Researching Your New Town

Southern New Hampshire is a great place to live.  Because of its attractiveness, every year many people move here from other states.  Others move from one town to another within New Hampshire.  This article is for those who are thinking of moving and who want to know about the city or town to which they are considering relocating to.

You may get an impression of a town by driving around, checking local newspapers for recent articles (easily done online), looking at its entry in Wikipedia, etc.

You can get more in-depth background information by checking some of the community statistical websites that are available.  The state of New Hampshire’s Community Profiles site is a good place to begin looking.  This website has basic city and town economic and statistical data such as tax rates, population characteristics, distance to major cities, lists of major employers and recreational opportunities, etc. has a wealth of details that can answer just about any question you may have on a town’s population, home values, crime, employment, weather, education, health, etc.  It even lists the radio stations that offer the best reception.  Unfortunately, the ads can be a little distracting, but the charts and graphs make many of the statistics much easier to understand than plain statistical sites.

Another website,, offers a lot of information a soon-to-be homeowner may want, such as contact details for town schools and departments, the names of utility companies, and each town’s URL.

Knowing that many house hunters are interested in the character of a community, the company I am affiliated with, Prudential Verani Realty, recently launched town websites to not only present facts, but to give some of the “flavor” of each town in its service area.  Videos presenting a tour through the town, photos of well-known sites, and reviews of restaurants, stores, etc., helps one get a more complete picture of the locality.  These features are complemented by up-to-date information on each town’s housing market and links to homes for sale by type and price range.  To access these town sites, visit the main Prudential Verani site and scroll down to the “Popular NH & MA Towns” section.

For information on schools, please see my Checking Up on School Systems blog.  For information on property taxes, see my NH Property Tax Rates blog.

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– Steve Russo

Fuller Gardens

New Hampshire is fortunate to be the home of Fuller Gardens, one of the few examples of a formal estate garden in New England.  Fuller Gardens was originally designed as part of the summer estate of Massachusetts’ Governor Alvan Fuller’s family in the 1920’s and 30’s.  It was developed by noted landscape gardener Arthur Shurtleff, the Olmstead Brothers of Boston, and Cherry Hill Nurseries.  It abounds in over 120 different varieties of roses, whose 1,700 plants bloom from early June through October.  Mature tree peonies, a Japanese garden, a koi pond, sculpted hedges, a hosta garden, and a tropical plant conservatory make this an oasis of horticulture near New Hampshire’s seacoast.  Its distinctiveness makes it a frequent locale for wedding receptions, social events, etc.

Be sure to visit the well-stocked gift shop when you go; Fuller Gardens, a nonprofit organization, is dependent on admission fees, sales from the gift shop, and donations to carry on its operation.  Its hours are 10AM – 5:30PM daily from mid-May through mid-October.  It is located at 10 Willow Avenue, near the intersection of routes 111 and 1-A in North Hampton.  More information may be found on its website.

Distinctive B&Bs: Stillmeadow B&B

Located in a mid-19th century building on Main Street in Hampstead is the Stillmeadow Bed and Breakfast.  Two acres of gardens adjoin the Colonial Italianate house, originally built by a newly married husband for his wife in 1850.  The B&B is now owned by Margaret and Willie Mitchell, who settled in New Hampshire from Scotland five years ago.

The Mitchells have kept their B&B as historically accurate as possible, but added a host of amenities to please the discerning traveler.  Their two suites and one room feature air conditioning, television, wifi, robes, slippers, hair dryers, and toiletries.  The suites also have mini refrigerators and recliners.

The proprietors feature local produce and farm-fresh eggs at the morning meals in the well-appointed Breakfast Room.  The parlor has a butler’s pantry with snacks and drinks for guests’ 24-hour use; coffee and tea is also always available in the Breakfast Room.  Stillmeadow is a non-smoking home; pets are not allowed.  Please contact the owners about their policy on children as guests.

Hampstead is a town well-known for the antique homes lining its Main Street and the many ponds and lakes that attract summer visitors.  The town is ideally situated in Southern New Hampshire – just a few minutes to the beach, Massachusetts, bustling Portsmouth, and the state’s largest cities, Manchester and Nashua.  Hampstead has many antique, gift, and craft shops, and a church with a Paul Revere bell.  For outdoor recreation, Hampstead boasts a 360-acre town forest and is near the 26-mile long Rockingham Recreational Trail, ideal for hiking, biking, and snowmobiling.

The Mitchells are very fond of their adopted homeland, and can ably assist visitors with information on local attractions.  For more information on Stillmeadow, please go to their website.

Distinctive B&B’s: The Little River B&B

When someone mentions Peterborough, one  thinks of the many artistic opportunities, retail shops, and historic buildings there.  A relative newcomer to Peterborough is the Little River Bed and Breakfast, an airy, attractive, and light-filled lodging option on the banks of the Nubanusit River, on quiet Union Street just outside the downtown area.  The current owners, Paula and Rob Fox, transformed an 1870’s farmhouse into a stunning B&B six years ago.

Each of the four guest rooms is individually decorated and features a Queen bed, attached private bath, and either a gas stove fireplace or river views.  The rooms also include flat screen televisions, wireless Internet, and air conditioning. There are two common rooms, the first floor living room features a wood burning fireplace and big screen television, while the second floor sunroom overlooking the river has books for guests’ use, together with comfortable chairs in which to lounge and read.  A great plus is the outdoor deck overlooking the river, which beckons guests three seasons of the year.

Breakfast at the Little River B&B

A delicious multi-course gourmet breakfast is served daily which may feature one of their signature dishes like French Baked Eggs, Summer Vegetable Strata, Blueberry Baked French Toast, or their famous homemade honey granola.  The B&B is completely non-smoking and pet-free and is not recommended for children twelve years old and younger.  Paula and Rob are very green-friendly; their B&B was designated an “Environmental Champion” by the NH Lodging and Restaurant Association.

The Sunroom

There is a multitude of cultural, recreational, and shopping opportunities available in the region. If you are at a loss about where to go, the very knowledgeable owners can furnish you with recommendations to make your stay very rewarding. More details about the Little River B&B may be found on its website.

Distinctive B&B’s: The Birchwood Inn

The Birchwood Inn on State Route 45 in Temple evokes an earlier time in New England.  The Inn, dating from 1775, has largely been preserved over the centuries and retains many original features.  As much of the building as possible has been preserved; the Inn is one of the jewels in the town’s Historic District.

Birchwood has two rooms and three suites available; all are named after old English towns by the two British-born proprietors.  The suites can each accommodate up to four people.  There are televisions, fireplaces, wifi service, window air conditioners, and private baths in each unit.  One of the suites has a king-size bed as well as a kitchenette and an additional half bath.  Many of the rooms retain their original Federal period walls and floors.  This year-round hostelry serves a hot breakfast during the week and a full English breakfast on Sundays to overnight guests.  Special diets can be accommodated.

The highlight of the public rooms is an 1825 mural that encompasses all four walls of one of the dining areas; it was painted by well-known early English-born American artist Rufus Porter, and appears to depict Temple as it was back in the early 1800’s.

In addition to the rooms for rent, the Birchwood boasts the London Tavern pub and restaurant featuring authentic English fare, with dishes such as Bangers and Mash and Steak and Ale Pie; desserts include Bread and Butter Pudding and Spotted Dick.  The London Tavern is usually open Wednesday – Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons and evenings.

Smoking is only allowed on the porch.  Due to the age of many of the furnishings, pets and children under ten cannot be accommodated.  For more information or to make reservations, visit their website.

Hampton Beach Sand Sculpture Event

We must be approaching summer – the Hampton Beach Sand Sculpture Competition is coming soon! Starting June 20th, competitors will fashion works of art from 300 tons of imported sand.  Yes, they import sand to Hampton Beach!  The competition, open to registered participants only, results in great sculptures that beautify the beach for several weeks.  There will be several special events in conjunction with this event, including sand sculpting classes, fireworks (June 23rd), and voting for a people’s choice award winner.  The creations will be on display through July 8th.  For more details and for photos of the impressive works of past award winners, go to the Sand Sculpture website by clicking here.