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Katie McQuaid's Scene in Manchester: Scout works to beautify Bicentennial Park

March 23. 2014 9:35PM

Have you ever noticed the area called Bicentennial Park near the front of Memorial High School? Parker Ricker has.

The Memorial senior first noticed the overgrown shrubs, uneven granite slabs and awkwardly placed granite bench — a gift from the Class of 1976 — while walking to his car after school one day. The Boy Scout Troop 290 member has decided it should be refurbished and that he would do it himself as part of his Eagle Scout project.

When I spoke with Ricker about his project, he explained his plans to re-set the granite slabs and bricks, move the existing bench, and add two more. I imagined he would pull a few weeds, dig up a couple bricks with a shovel, and call it a day.

Then I saw the photos. There appear to be 15 to 20 4-by-9-foot granite slabs, 13 smaller squares, and hundreds of granite pavers. Ricker doesn't know the exact number.

"I'll have to check once the snow melts," he said.

Ricker also plans to prune or remove brush that surrounds and hides a Crusaders informational sign on Weston Road.

"This is such a great sign, but currently not very noticeable nor a good representation of our school's Crusader pride," wrote Ricker on his project's Facebook page. "I would like to trim/prune or replace the trees, weed and thin out the ground cover and add a retaining wall along the front of the sign to frame it in."

Thank goodness for Eagle Scout projects. Ricker said classmates and fellow Scouts have offered to help him with this huge project. I appreciate that he is doing it in a place that is so visible to his classmates. Maybe it will inspire other students to help, or take on a similar project.

I am sure there are dozens of areas like this that — given a little TLC — would really improve our city's aesthetics. Unfortunately, we are a city that is counting every last penny, and small parks like this are not always a priority.

Ricker estimates the cash value of all the supplies he will need is about $1,800. If you have materials, cash or time to donate to the effort, please contact him at 391-2816. More information and photos of the park in its current state can be found at

Dancing for joy

I cannot express how much joy judging the Dancing With the Stars Gala brought me. The Manchester Community Music School benefit last Thursday set a new bar for local fundraising events.

Held at beautiful new space at Manchester Community College, the evening was entertaining from start to finish with amazing music by the New Hampshire Youth Jazz Ensemble, and of course, those dancers.

I am so relieved that our judges' votes didn't really count, because there is no way I could have chosen a winner. Pubali Campbell of Bikram Yoga Manchester was definitely the most skilled (and of course limber) during her number with partner JR Rosado from Royal Palace Dance Studio. Joe Graham, vice president and general manager of Clear Channel NH, surprised everyone by actually dressing like Beast from "Beauty and the Beast" and demonstrating his strength and balance with some pretty fancy lifts with partner Jessica Collins of Dimensions in Dance.

My fellow judge, Mike L'Ecuyer, president and CEO of Bellwether Credit Union and last year's dance champion, said seeing Graham in costume was, "worth the price of admission."

Alex Walker, Catholic Medical Center's vice president of operations and strategy, showcased a signature move that fellow judge and music school voice teacher Jill Deleault could only describe as "stalking jazz hands." We weren't sure whether he was supposed to be wooing or attacking partner Rori Dawes with Dimensions in Dance, who said she was used to working with challenging students after being paired with L'Ecuyer last year.

The ultimate winner was Cathy Schmidt, executive director and CEO of McLane Law firm. Her dance number to "Singing in the Rain" with partner Miah Trost of Royal Palace Dance Studio, was definitely the most entertaining, complete with umbrella props and confetti rain. But, I have a feeling she would have won if she stood there doing jumping jacks for two minutes.

The winner of the contest was determined by applause and the McLane lawyers were out in full force, even bringing noise makers and cowbells to cheer on their leader. Supporters who only brought their hands and voices didn't stand a chance.

Many people worked behind the scenes to make this gala a success, including school Director of Marketing & Communications Karen Tebbenhoff, event planner Ami D'Amelio and of course Manchester Community Music School CEO Jeanine Tousignant.

Sadly this is the last gala for Tousignant, who is stepping down in June to open her own organizational and fundraising consulting firm. The school has flourished during her 10 years at the helm, and I am excited to see what is to come under its next leader.

Sorry, Scott

Congratulations to the recent New Hampshire Union Leader 40 Under Forty award recipients. I always love attending this event, which was held at the Grappone Center in Concord last Wednesday. The list of honorees and their accomplishments makes me feel proud to live in New Hampshire, and excited about our state's future.

It's also a tremendous networking opportunity, and I got to meet a few notable people for the first time, including Gov. Maggie Hassan and former U.S. senator from Massachusetts Scott Brown, who may be running for a New Hampshire U.S. Senate seat this fall.

I was thankful for the opportunity to formally meet Brown, and apologize to him for our first informal meeting a couple months ago.

It was a few days after he appeared on the front page of this newspaper without a shirt on (he was taking part in the Penguin Plunge for Special Olympics at Hampton Beach). He was walking out of the Union Leader Corp. building as I was walking in.

"I almost didn't recognize you with your clothes on," I said, never looking up from the path in front of me. I was so embarrassed by my fresh mouth that I hurried into the building without stopping to introduce myself.

Fortunately, Brown has a sense of humor, accepted my apology, and said he liked my "spunk."

Thank goodness somebody out there does.

The anonymous people

It is no secret that Manchester is facing an enormous drug problem right now. I know many addicts and their friends and families who are in the difficult process of helping them get into recovery programs or providing support for them once they begin.

On Wednesday, April 2, the psychology department at Saint Anselm College is hosting a free screening of the addiction recovery documentary, "The Anonymous People," which shines the light on something not many people want to talk about, the 23 million Americans in addiction recovery.

The film features stories of individuals in long-term recovery, including Emmy award winner Kristen Johnston from "3rd Rock From The Sun," and 2006 Miss USA Tara Conner. These people have begun speaking out about their addiction because, as one quote from the film trailer said, "The shame and secrecy are just as deadly as the disease itself."

The film will be followed by a panel discussion with local substance abuse experts and a person in recovery. Moderated by Saint Anselm College psychology professor Loretta Brady, Ph.D., the panel is expected to be the first in a series.

Panelists include Dr. Jerry Hevern, family physician at Suncook Family Health Center; Stephanie McNeil, Easter Seals; Tym Rourke, New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and chair of the Governor's Commission on Substance Abuse Disorders; Meghan Shea, Family Willows manager and therapist; Eric Spofford, founder of The Granite House sober living for men and recovering addict; and Cheryl Wilkie, senior vice president Farnum Center and Webster Place Recovery.

The screening and discussion at the Dana Center are free and open to the public. Food donations are being accepted at the door to benefit the Greater Manchester AIDS Project. To see the film's trailer, visit

"It's Springtime for Hitler and Germany!" with another weekend of Tony Award-winning "The Producers" at the Palace Theatre. This hilarious story features fading producer Max Bialystock, who convinces accountant Leo Bloom to partner with him in producing "Springtime for Hitler," a guaranteed flop, and then running off with the money they have raised from wealthy widows. Follow these scoundrels as their ill intentions turn into a raging success, leading them to even more drastic actions and undesired outcomes. The show runs through Saturday, April 5; tickets are between $15 and $45. For a complete list of show times, visit

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