An Ocean of Fun: Celebrate with the Blue Ocean Society all week long

Starting on the first day of June, the Blue Ocean Society for the first time expands World Oceans Day, which started in 2016, to World Oceans Week. It’s happening June 1 to June 8, and the week will feature all kinds of activities that celebrate the ocean.

Blue Ocean Society was founded in 2001 by two whale watch naturalists, Jen Kennedy and Dianna Schulte, who were frustrated with the lack of translation of open ocean research into information that could be used by the public.

“The Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation’s mission is to protect marine life in the Gulf of Maine through research, education and inspiring action,” said Kennedy, who is also the executive director of the Society, which is based in Portsmouth in the Governor Langdon House, and also runs the Blue Ocean Discovery Center in Hampton Beach.

The Week will kick off with a 5K race, Run for the Ocean, right on Hampton Beach. Part of the race takes place on the boardwalk and sidewalks, and part is right on the beach. Runners who cannot physically attend the race may still participate as “virtual runners,” doing the run from wherever they can, wherever they are. Those who do not wish to run are welcome to walk or to simply make a donation to the Blue Ocean Society.

All proceeds go to the Blue Ocean Society to help its efforts to conserve marine life.

This year there will be three beach clean-up days, on June 2, June 4 and June 8.

“We provide all supplies, including bags, non-latex gloves and data cards,” Kennedy said. “Volunteers are encouraged to wear work gloves to minimize our use of disposable gloves. We suggest participants dress in layers and wear sturdy, close-toed shoes for safety. Cleanups are conducted rain or shine.”

Also on June 8, there will be a yoga class, and an opportunity to whale-watch aboard the M/V Granite State.

On June 5, the World Oceans Week Party will be hosted by the Liar’s Bench Beer Co. on Islington Street in Portsmouth. There will be food from Lure Bar and Kitchen, a hot sauce tasting with Spicy Shark, and a chance to check out clothing from Portsmouth company the Drift Collective.

On June 6, the Seacoast Science Center, in Rye, will be screening the documentary Rubber Jellyfish, directed by Australian filmmaker Carly Wilson.

A film synopsis from the film’s website states: “We all know that throwing rubbish on the ground is littering, so why is letting a balloon float away seen as something different? Rubber Jellyfish is a feature-length documentary that explores the effects of helium balloons on the environment, wildlife and human beings. Mum-to-be Carly Wilson sets out on a personal journey to meet key players on all sides in the fight to ban balloons, and exposes the confronting truth behind our favourite party product. As she travels around Australia seeking to understand the science and various points of view, Carly discovers a range of issues, from the heartbreaking impact on sea turtles to the potentially deadly effect of helium on children. Her journey takes her from littered beaches to the capital, as she speaks to activists, businesses, and politicians to find out why the balloon problem is being ignored and if something can be done.”

Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with the screening at 7 p.m., followed by a discussion of the film and Q & A session with the Blue Ocean Society.

For more information about World Oceans Week, volunteering with the Blue Ocean Society, or to make a donation, visit Those looking to sign up for the 5K Run for the Ocean event should visit

“We strive to learn more about the Gulf of Maine, and particularly an important habitat called Jeffreys Ledge, and then bring our research to the public through a variety of outreach programs,” Kennedy said. “We hope by sharing information with the public and resource managers, more people will be inspired to learn more about the marine environment and help protect it. Our vision is of thriving marine life in the Gulf of Maine with citizens committed to environmental stewardship.”

— Mike Costello

Ready to Explore: Check out a backpack and head outdoors

Libraries are often thought of as an antithesis to the outdoors, providing a sheltered area to exercise the brain but not so much the body. Aware of this perception and looking for change, the Hampton Falls Free Library recently unveiled its new Explorer Backpack program, offering three backpack options full of useful nature materials that can be checked out as easily as a book.

Barbara Tosiano, the director of the Hampton Falls Free Library, said she and several Friends of the Library members and trustees heard about similar programs that other libraries were offering at a conference in Manchester, and they thought it would be a great idea to implement something similar in Hampton Falls, especially considering the wildlife the Seacoast has to offer.

“It offers people an opportunity to get outdoors and enjoy the beautiful scenery and nature that we have in New England,” Tosiano said. “In New Hampshire, so much of it is so close by, especially here in the Seacoast area, so with the backpacks and the New Hampshire State Parks pass that we are also offering there is no excuse not to get out and enjoy the beautiful sunshine.”

The Explorer Backpack program has a total of three backpack varieties to choose from: a coastal exploration pack, a mountain exploration pack and a birding bag. The coastal and mountain backpack are The North Face hiking-style backpacks, while the birding bag is a lighter shoulder bag.

Each pack includes binoculars, compasses, maps, trail guides, rain ponchos, first aid kits, emergency whistles, pocket guides to New Hampshire animal tracks (courtesy of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department) and what Tosiano calls the “ever-popular scat chart,” which she says is a favorite among the kids.

One of the more unique details of the Explorer Backpack program is the library’s addition of free New Hampshire State Parks passes that allow library patrons and their families free access to most state wildlife parks (aside from those with restricted access). According to Tosiano, New Hampshire State Parks sent the library an email outlining the opportunity and explaining that they had been offering it for a while, but just hadn’t publicized it all that well. Once Tosiano and the rest of the library staff caught wind of it, they “pretty much all jumped on it,” she said.

“[Now] you can get your pass and get your backpack with your binoculars and your compass and your field guides to animals and plants and you are all set,” said Tosiano.

The coastal exploration pack offers several Seacoast-specific items for those interested in going out and probing what the beach has to offer. The pack includes Atlantic Seashore by Kenneth L. Gosner, a field guide to “sponges, jellyfish, sea urchins and more”; Exploring Odiorne Point by Julia Steed, a spiral-bound breakdown of the Rye state park; and “Northeastern Seashore Life,” a folding pamphlet-style guide that covers over 140 species of seashore birds, mammals, creatures, seashells, nearshore fish and plants as well as a tidal zone map.

The mountain exploration pack includes a southern New Hampshire trail guide, a New Hampshire state parks map, a colorful picture pamphlet of various wildflowers and several other trail guides and maps for hiking that holistically offer “options for family-friendly hikes that don’t require a lot of travel time,” as Judy Wilson Smith, one of the library’s trustees who led the charge in implementing the Explorer Backpack program, said in the program’s informational video on their website.

Finally, the birding bag includes a New Hampshire state parks map and three books and guides to help identify the miscellany of birds that can be found throughout New England. Tosiano believes the lightweight, easy to carry birding bag is great for older people looking to go for a walk and look for birds through the binoculars.

While the program hasn’t been overwhelmingly popular yet, Tosiano hopes it will pick up once the weather does, offering free opportunities for local families to explore their surrounding wilderness in the comfortably warm days of summer. For Tosiano, the Explorer Backpack program is another way that the Hampton Falls Free Library can offer more than just a sheltered place to read in silence. The library also has a telescope that patrons can check out free of charge, and she noted that many libraries are starting to provide items such as bakeware, tools and musical instruments.

“Libraries are more than just books,” Tosiano said. “We’re doing a lot more than you would expect. … In an increasingly digital age, where so many people and so many children specifically are in front of their computer games, we’d really like to get people outdoors.”

— Caleb Jagoda

Wild History

A volunteer from the Speaking for Wildlife project will present “Wild History: 350 Years of New Hampshire Wildlife,” taking attendees on a virtual journey through New Hampshire’s past, focusing on changes in the land and how wildlife populations have responded over time. It happens Wednesday, May 29, 6:30 p.m. at Rye Public Library, 581 Washington Road, Rye. Free. Visit or call 964-8401.

Coffee with your Cars?

Monthly car shows draw hundreds
Damien Callahan enjoys relaxation, coffee, car rides and conversation on his Sunday mornings. Though he noticed that many others share these interests, he struggled to find a community space where people could come together and partake in these things on a regular basis.

So he created Seacoast Cars and Coffee, an automotive show at the Mall at Fox Run in Newington that happens the first Sunday of every month from May through October. He encourages people to bring in anything and everything with wheels and chat, have a coffee and marvel at the variety of vehicles. As their slogan goes, “If it rolls, and you love it, bring it!”

Callahan, the founder of Seacoast Cars and Coffee, believes the defining feature of his monthly Sunday morning car shows is their diversity; he recalls going to many specific car shows, whether it was for muscle cars or imports, but never finding one in the area that embraced automotive culture holistically and provided a family-friendly, welcoming ambience.

“Everyone’s kind of calm and chill,” Callahan said, “and it’s a nice, different way of having a car show. You don’t have to be into cars to have a good time at this show; it’s a really nice way to spend a Sunday morning with family, with friends. And if you’re into cars it’s awesome because you get to kind of see a little bit of everything.”

Seacoast Cars and Coffee’s next event is Sunday, June 2, starting at 8 a.m. and is expected to draw anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 people. As Callahan remembers, it wasn’t always this way, as Cars and Coffee started with humble beginnings.

Seacoast Cars and Coffee began in August 2014, when Callahan made a Facebook page that received 34 likes. Then, at their first car show at Roger’s Redliner Diner (which is now Me & Ollie’s Bakery and Cafe) in Portsmouth, he watched 34 vehicles show up.

“That was a good sign, [that] we had a 100 percent turnout,” Callahan said. “Next month that almost doubled for September [and then] grew again in October. … We came back the next year and at that point we were over 100 cars and it just kind of grew and grew and grew from there.”

Callahan watched a steep increase in popularity at his monthly event, so much so that he was forced to rapidly change venues, from Roger’s Redliner Diner, to Cinemagic in Portsmouth, to his current location at the Mall at Fox Run.

“We expected to take a year or two to fill Cinemagic but we actually filled it on the first event, the season opener that year,” Callahan said. “By 8:30 in the morning we filled the whole cinema behind the buildings, all through McKinnon’s [Market], all the [Roger’s Redliner] Diner, the 99 Restaurant; I mean, at that point, it was spilling out onto Route 1, so we knew we had to move.”

At their current location, Seacoast Cars and Coffee continues to cultivate a local tradition that draws people from all over New England, “from Rhode Island to Vermont,” according to Callahan.

“If you just walk through Cars and Coffee and look at the conversations people are having with each other, they all come together over their love for cars, bikes, trucks, whatever it is, it’s a passion,” Callahan said. “That’s been very cool to see. It’s not just one kind of person at these shows by any means, and we love that.”

Unlike many other car shows, Seacoast Cars and Coffee requires no registration, is completely free, doesn’t hand out trophies and never separates vehicles by classes, divisions or any other distinction. Callahan believes that this has had a hand in creating an accepting atmosphere that encourages conversation between owners of everything and anything.

One of Callahan’s fondest memories of the monthly show is when he witnessed a young employee of a body shop bring in a beat-up 1950s Chevrolet pickup truck that his boss gave to him, telling him that if he could fix it and get it to run, he could have it. So, the young man brought the truck to Cars and Coffee, where he found himself parked next to a brand new Lamborghini Aventador.

“I mean, the guy in the Lamborghini got out and wanted to go look at the old pickup truck and the kid in the pickup truck wanted to look at the Lamborghini, but that’s the point,” Callahan said. “That just says it all.”

Callahan is working to expand his love of vehicles and community even further, with plans to open the Seacoast Cars and Coffee Cafe inside the Mall at Fox Run in June. Within the 11,500-square-foot facility, Callahan plans to offer an open cafe workspace that will include a constantly changing six-vehicle and four-motorcycle display and consistent showings of Motor Trend and any number of Nascar and other vehicle races. While

Callahan hopes for a June 1 opening of the cafe, he said it may be pushed to mid-June.

Visit and
— Caleb Jagoda

Tons of Trucks: Tow Show Returns to Hampton Beach

A truck beauty contest, a drivers’ skills challenge and a massive parade of vehicles are part of this year’s annual Tow Show, happening Saturday, May 18, and Sunday, May 19, at Hampton Beach State Park.

This year’s show, put on by the New Hampshire Towing Association, is being held in memory of Rene Fortin, who died in September after serving for president of the NHTA for more than 40 years, according to current president Ralph Cresta.

“He was great to work with,” Cresta said. “I worked under him for a long time. The weekend is going to be dedicated to him, and his family will be there. He’s got a great family and I’m looking forward to seeing them.”

The NHTA has a full slate of events scheduled for the weekend, including a tow rodeo, a tow parade, a truck beauty contest, a “Light Up the Night” barbecue, towing demonstrations, raffles, silent auctions and more.

The Tow Show begins on Saturday at 9 a.m., with registration beginning at 8 a.m. with the tow rodeo, which is essentially a skills challenge for tow truck drivers. According to Cresta, the tow rodeo is “kind of like a CDL test, but a little more challenging,” referring to the Commercial Driver’s License that towers must obtain to legally drive a tow truck.

The tow rodeo includes cars, carriers, large tractor trailers, backing up to a fence and getting as close as possible without hitting it, timed driving pull-ups and more. The rodeo is split into different divisions and will cost $20 per division, lasting most of the day on Saturday.

Also happening on Saturday is the truck beauty contest from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Demonstrations will take place all day and include tow trucks retrieving cars over stone walls, cars flipped over, and cars on top of each other.

Then, on Sunday beginning at 9 a.m., the Tow Show’s annual parade starts off from Seabrook and ends back at the Tow Show site in the Hampton Beach State Park. Cresta said that the parade is going to include tow trucks from all over the Northeast, including people “from New York all the way up to Presque Isle.” The New Hampshire Motor Speedway will join in the parade as well.

Fortin, who was inducted into the International Towing Museum’s Hall of Fame two weeks before he died, played an integral part in building up the annual Tow Show. He had an especially influential impact on the Sunday parade, drawing huge crowds to watch the tow trucks pass through.

“[Fortin] has been involved in the New Hampshire Tow Show widely recognized across the New England area and nation for years and held the World Record until recently for tow trucks in a parade,” the International Towing Museum’s website said about Fortin’s involvement with the parade. “Every year thousands of people lined the street cheering on the trucks passing the beach and quite frankly wondering where in the heck was the accident!? Has to be a big one!”

Also occurring on Sunday at the Tow Show is the Light Up the Night barbecue at 6 p.m.; car racing through the day; trophies and prizes handed out for Saturday’s rodeo and various other events; and a number of vendors and demonstrators displaying their trucks and vehicles to the public.

Cresta believes the Tow Show creates a strong sense of community between towers and their surrounding townspeople, as well as shining awareness on the danger and importance of towers’ jobs day in and day out.

“We’ve had many tow truck drivers hit throughout the country,” said Cresta. “Just over a year ago we lost a gentleman in Massachusetts down near Lawrence. That’s just going on more and more around the country. … We’re just trying to slow it down some. I believe we’re losing a tower every six or eight days — we’re just trying to make people aware.”

Fortin was one of the leaders in fighting for the New Hampshire Move Over Law that “requires [drivers to] reduce speed and change lanes when approaching a disabled or emergency vehicle,” according to the International Towing Museum’s website.

In honoring Fortin’s legacy, the NHTA is also continuing to advocate for tower safety and bringing the people of New England together to observe and celebrate all that towers do.

“It’s neat to see all the towers you see every day but you don’t see every day,” Cresta said. “Now you can sit down and talk with them for 15 or 20 minutes from different parts of the New England area and have a conversation and not be worried about getting called and you have to go somewhere. … But we’ve still got to continue doing our job even though we’re having this little trade show and rodeo.”


— Caleb Jagoda


Kites Soar: Event honors those affected by cancer

On Sunday, May 19, kites will soar over Hampton Beach, bringing people together to celebrate those who have been affected by cancer.
An annual event, Kites Against Cancer holds a special place in Tammy Symons’ heart.

“My mother passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2010, and she had such a love for the beach and ocean, so being able to fly a kite in her memory at this event brings us great peace. We look forward to it every year,” Symons said.

The event is hosted by Exeter Hospital’s Beyond the Rainbow Fund.

“As cancer has unfortunately impacted the lives of so many, the vision behind Kites Against Cancer is not only to honor and remember those affected by this horrible disease, but also as a way to bring our community together and celebrate life and hope,” said Carrie Shaw, who is the sister of Beyond the Rainbow Fund founder Anne-Marie Viviano.

Viviano began the fund in 2002 to help cancer patients overwhelmed by practical expenses such as rent and utility bills, wigs and other needs. The Kites Against Cancer event started in 2005 and became an annual happening by 2010 — one year after Anne-Marie Viviano died after a 14-year bout with breast cancer.

“The kites symbolize love, hope and healing for our community and those affected by cancer,” said Eileen McDonald, director of the Center for Cancer Care. “Flying kites on the beach has become a very inspirational and healing experience for many community members over the years.”

Those who want to participate will meet at the Hampton Beach Oceanfront Pavilion at noon.
The event is open to the whole community, and people can purchase a kite from Exeter Hospital’s gift shop or front desk for $10. All proceeds go to the Beyond the Rainbow Fund.

On Tuesday, June 4, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. there will also be a Cancer Survivors Block Party for survivors, family and friends at the Center for Cancer Care at Exeter Hospital. It will feature food, live music, face painting, games and more.

For more information on these events, or to learn how to donate or volunteer with the Beyond the Rainbow Fund, visit or call 580-6668.
— Mike Costello

Spring Clean-up

The next meeting of the Hampton Garden Club will be Wednesday, May 8, for the Spring Clean-Up at the Lane Library & Monument in Hampton at 6 p.m. The meeting will take place at the First Congregational Church across the street. Then, the Garden Club’s annual Plant & Bake Sale will be Saturday, May 11, from 8 a.m. to noon at the Centre School in Hampton, with annuals, perennials, hanging baskets, decorated rocks, baked goods, a silent auction of rain barrels, and a kids craft table.

Carry-out Comics

Whether you’re a seasoned comic book reader hungry for new material or a comic book newbie with no idea where to start, Free Comic Book Day is the perfect time to take a chance on some new comics without spending a dime. The annual worldwide event, set for Saturday, May 4, encourages comic book shops to hand out free comic books created specially for that day and to offer comic-related fun like cosplay contests, door prizes and special guests.

“There is not another day of the year that a comic book shop will get so many new faces into their establishment,” said Ralph DiBernardo, owner of participating comic book shop Jetpack Comics in Rochester. “It allows us [comic book shops] to … tailor-fit someone to a comic book [based] on their line of interest and give it to them for free. … If we do our job right, the new readers will return [to the shop].”

There are 51 FCBD exclusive comics this year, including 12 “gold” titles, which are available at all participating shops, and 39 “silver” titles, which are available at select shops. Some comics are spin-offs of movies, television shows, video games and established comic book series, such as Stranger Things, Doctor Who, Pokemon, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Bob’s Burgers, Star Wars and others. Other comics are samples of full-length comics that are soon to be released.

“It’s exciting for comic book readers because the publishers … showcase their best upcoming work for their Free Comic Book Day offerings,” DiBernardo said. “It’s kind of a sneak peek or secret introduction into what the publisher is going to be bringing us this year.”

With the Avengers: Endgame film hitting theaters this month, DiBernardo said he expects the FCBD Avengers #1 comic to go fast.

“I can’t see the Avengers comic book not being the most sought-after. That’s the comic that everyone is going to want to pick up,” DiBernardo said. “Given how fast the movie tickets have sold, I think [the comic] is going to attract a lot of people … maybe a 20- to 25-percent increase in [the number of] people attending this year.”

The only rule for comic book shops on FCBD is that the FCBD comics must be distributed for free. Outside of that, every comic book shop has its own approach. Some put a limit on the number of free comics a person can take while others allow people to take as many as they want. Shops may also set out leftover FCBD comics from previous years, if they have some.
In addition to the free comics, many shops host special events and activities on that day.

The largest FCBD celebration in the state is the Rochester Free Comic Book Day Festival, a partnership between the City of Rochester and Jetpack Comics. Festivities including local comic creators, vendors, live entertainment, food, a cosplay contest and more will take place throughout downtown. FCBD comics will be available at Jetpack Comics and 21 Rochester businesses and community centers, with a different selection of comics at each site. You can see what’s happening where and start planning your route with the scavenger hunt map, available now on Jetpack’s website.

“People start lining up at our store around 7 a.m., and by noontime there are 4,000 people roaming around downtown Rochester,” DiBernardo said. “It’s a super fun day, and the city has a great time with it.”

DiBernardo said that on FCBD the store’s staff will be happy to offer suggestions and help guide people, particularly people who are new to comics, to a comic that matches their interests and taste.

“Talk to us,” DiBernardo said. “Most of us who sell comic books do so from a love for comic books. Every one of us wants to share that passion.”

— Angie Sykeny


Participating Seacoast-area comic book stores: 

For more information about Free Comic Book Day, visit 

• Jetpack Comics, 37 N. Main St., Rochester, 330-9636, The store partners with the City of Rochester to host the Rochester Free Comic Book Day Festival. Special activities including a cosplay competition and visits from special guest comic book creators and artists will take place at the store and at various downtown locations.

• Krypton Comics And Pop Culture Emporium, 103 Water St., Exeter, 658-2667, There will be sales on regular comics and graphic novels all weekend.

• Stairway to Heaven Comics, 105 Gosling Road, Newington, 319-6134, There will be special guest comic book creators, sales and a costume contest.