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Lorna Colquhoun Writer/Photographer
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The Other Woodstock

NORTH WOODSTOCK, NH - After a romp through a Saturday sky, the sun`s last rays tickle the peaks of the Franconia Range, casting long shadows at the end of a mid-summer`s day. In a little bandstand in this western White Mountains town, population 1,200, musicians take their instruments up and down the scales, warming up for a concert before a crowd that is unfolding lawn chairs and spreading out blankets in the waning daylight.

It`s a night not unlike a century of Saturday nights here, where long before another Woodstock became a symbol of the 1960s and flower power and rock and roll, locals and tourists alike passed a few languid hours, tapping their toes and clapping their hands at concerts that are short on political statements and long on happy memories of twilight and fireflies and all that is carefree about summer.

During concerts in this Woodstock, there`s some dancing, more than likely the toddler set rocking and rolling in time to the music. Psychedelic clothes? Sometimes, like when someone loses a race with a melting pistachio and black raspberry ice cream cone.

``This Woodstock is the place to be at,`` says Dave Bradley, a member of the Blake Mountain Country Band, which plays in the bandstand a time or two each summer.

Soldiers` Park is where this town honors its war dead, flies the flag, lights a Christmas tree and boasts benches where people can tarry on the pretty little common. For years and years, it?lso had a bandstand - this particular one is practically brand new, having been built a couple of years ago when the old one reached retirement age.

``Bands have always played there,`` says Charlie Harrington, the affable barber on Main Street. ``Back in the 1950s, there was a town band and it would play alternate weeks at the bandstand and up on the steps of the Lincoln Hotel.``

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But when the band couldn`t play on, the town began importing performers to keep alive what had become a summer ritual for locals and visitors alike. This year, says town clerk Deanna MacKay, the town has budgeted close to $4,000 to provide the entertainment and to keep alive a tradition.

``We do it because it`s a nice thing to do and people enjoy it,`` she said.

The first bandstand in Woodstock appeared around the late 1800s, at about the same time the grand hotels, like the Deer Park and the Mountain View, were built to accommodate visitors from away. The original bandstand was located at the end of a footpath from one of those hotels and was fitted with a roof and benches so it could be a resting place for weary feet.

In 1909, a local family deeded a piece of land in the middle of Main Street for use as a common. Thirty years later, the bandstand was relocated and enlarged to better accommodate the Woodstock Town Band and the audiences it drew.

When the town band played its last notes in the late 1950s, the little bandstand was empty for some years and time and vandals took their toll on it. In the early 1970s, an arson fire destroyed the town`s beloved covered bridge, but when a fundraising effort to rebuild it fell far short of what was needed, the money raised was turned over to bandstand repair. Once more, it was moved to a more prominent position on the common and 25 years ago, Saturday night concerts resumed.

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Three years ago, after the death of a beloved citizen, his family gave the town the gift of a new bandstand. In late July 1997, the wife and children of Dalton Avery watched as the new structure was put in place. A plaque bearing his name is affixed to a corner of the bandstand.

The Granite State`s Woodstock is a far cry and a far geographical distance from Max Yasgur`s farm outside of Woodstock, N.Y., which was the site of `the` Woodstock. Over the years, hapless travelers roll into town looking for the field, only to be disappointed when shown a map.

``We haven`t had anyone come in here this year looking for `that` Woodstock,`` said Andy Morse, owner of Wayne`s Market. He pauses and chuckles.

``No, the question of the summer here at Wayne`s came a couple of days ago when someone came in here ...`` he said, raising his right arm in a swear-to-God position, ``and asked us when does a deer grow into a moose?``

Saturday night concerts in North Woodstock will run right up to the Labor Day weekend. Soldiers` Park is located off exit 32 of Interstate 93. Admission is free. Bring your own lawn chair. Tie dye is optional.

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