From One Townie to Another: Celebrate Your Roots

It’s too easy, as people so accustomed to our hometowns, to forget the novelty of certain annual events: a Summer Theater Series, a Strawberry Festival, or a Rock and Mineral Swap. Oftentimes, these events lose their appeal by the time we’re teenagers; they become an inextricable part of the scene we’re all so desperate to escape. And they’re oversaturated in memories of their rain-ruined or lackluster aberrations.

So, how do we overcome our familiarity and celebrate our roots?

Sarah Gray, the owner of Body Covers Screen Printing, has the answer: “Be the tourist you always wanted to be in the town you know so well.

Like many people from Laconia, my relationship with Motorcycle Week is complicated. I spoke to Sarah about Body Covers’ role in screen printing this year’s Official Motorcycle Week T-shirt, and her perspective helped me retrieve my appreciation for an event that’s indelibly shaped my personality.

Photograph: Sarah Gray

Laconia’s Motorcycle Week

The City of Laconia boasts “the oldest motorcycle rally in the country.” These seven words are repeated so frequently that their meaning—the event’s legacy and its importance—is lost on most locals. (You can check out historic photographs here.)

But it’s not lost on Sarah. “It means, in Laconia, the start of summer,” she said. In an area dependent on seasonal revenue, Motorcycle Week is important to everyone: from the busboys and “dock girls” to the restaurant owners and boat dealers. Sarah describes the annual work of local employers and employees as “a total mental and physical feat.” Not only does the event attract tourists to the region, it serves as a rite of passage for nearly all of Laconia’s working young people.

“I also love the people watching… the smiling faces… and the falling asleep to the hum of exhaust pipes,” Sarah said. “After a few days, it’s like ocean waves.”

Photograph: Jeff Achber

I grew up on the busiest street in Laconia—and Sarah’s words sent me back in time. (When I moved to college, I found it difficult to fall asleep without the din of revving motorcycles—no joke!) There’s an electricity in the air during Bike Week. On Weirs Beach’s boardwalk, the smell of sizzling burgers is ubiquitous; the neon glow of carnival lights, nostalgic; and the camaraderie of bikers and pedestrians alike, contagious.

“Laconia has so much personality and so many hallmarks: tattoos, bars, breakfast joints, and characters, both young and old… When I am somewhere else, and I explain where I live, I bring up Weirs Beach or Laconia’s Motorcycle Week, because those are what everyone remembers us by.”

But here’s the real point, from one townie to another: perhaps, such annual events can help us understand ourselves.

Sarah’s enthusiastic description of Laconia’s Motorcycle Week—its gritty, unrefined, rebellious atmosphere—reminded me of dormant parts of my own personality. Who would I be, if it weren’t for the years I spent immersed in that leather-clad crowd? That’s what I think now, as I navigate that boardwalk. It’s about more than motorcycles; it’s about hearing, smelling, and seeing a place with a renewed appreciation and a deeper understanding of my past.

Body Cover’s Official 2017 Motorcycle Week T-shirt is emblazoned with a collage of old and new photographs—smiling participants from the rally’s rich history. And I can’t think of a more fitting tribute.

After all, when we celebrate our hometowns, we celebrate what makes us who we are.

What’s your townie experience? Share it with me—or better yet, send me an invite! And I’ll be sure to celebrate it in an upcoming blog post!

If you or someone you know would like to be profiled, then contact me at townies@stayworkplay.org. Let’s continue to celebrate our living New Hampshire!

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