Fun-filled day of activities rocks Merrimack

MERRIMACK – Ample thanks from event organizers went out to crowds attending the eighth annual Fall Festival and Business Expo recently.

The festival and expo was held from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. indoors and outdoors at Merrimack High School on Saturday, Sept. 27. The day of free family fun was capped with Merrimack Rocks, a fireworks-festooned follow-up held 4-8 p.m. at Watson Park.

The festival and expo, overseen by the Town Council, was sponsored by the Merrimack Business Association, a nonprofit corporation founded in 2010 by five local business owners. Today, some 100 businesses are a part of the organization, whose members are dedicated to assisting local small businesses, nurturing their growth and encouraging entrepreneurship.

Dave McCray, one of the group’s founders and its current president, said the MBA offers local businesspeople help in writing business plans, formulating marketing programs and embracing many other business-building tasks. There is no fee for the services and no dues for members of the group.

More information on membership can be had from McCray at

Hundreds of local families and visitors from many other towns indulged in the daytime events at the high school. Face painting, a petting zoo, food, plenty of free samples and lots of entertainment elicited delighted reactions from spectators.

Live music was of a caliber rewarded with enthusiastic rounds of applause. Merrimack’s Curly Jones was one who plucked his guitar and sang, while Keegan Nunley played drums. The pair garnered their share of the cheers, as did other performers.

Some of the adults took opportunities as they meandered through the high school or made their way across the parking lot to talk with their choice of business owners, crafts people, Scout leaders or members of the police and fire departments.

Others stopped to chat with many of the 116 participating vendors, business owners whose booths represented enterprises ranging from pressure washing to medical services to health and beauty products.

New to the scene this year was Daniel Webster College’s representative, Glenn Carter, U.S. Navy retired, dean of the school of aviation science there. He enticed many adults to consider some continuing education.

McCray noted on the Merrimack Business Association’s Facebook page that the day of activities drew around 2,500 people.

The exhibits at the expo included Merrimack Police Department safety equipment, an incident command vehicle, the DARE anti-drug station wagon and other exhibits.

Merrimack’s Jasper Hagar, 4, a preschool student poised to attain his yellow belt from Strikeback Dynamic Defense Systems in Merrimack, was among the dozens of children giving a big thumbs-up to the acquisition of a shiny, metallic foil police badge and other souvenirs of the day.

Officer Rob Kelleher displayed a specialized passenger seat constructed on an inclined frame. It is a machine called the Seatbelt Convincer. It gave the brave a chance to be belted into the seat and experience a quick down-slide that replicates a low-speed crash. A safe but sudden stop illustrated to all comers the importance of wearing a seat belt.

Police Capt. Michael Dudash, a veteran of 32 years on the Merrimack police force, said the Seatbelt Convincer provides a way to show drivers and passengers, especially teenagers, that wearing a seat belt can save a life.

“This is a great event,” Dudash said. “It gives us the opportunity to show teenagers the Convincer and encourage them to use a seat belt. It’s also an opportunity to meet people of the town and familiarize them with the many services we offer.”

An antique fire truck and other fire-rescue vehicles were exhibited in the parking lot. Red plastic fire helmets were given to kids craving a keepsake. Merrimack’s Alyssa Renaud, 6, wore her fire hat all day, for it matched some of her fashionable wardrobe.

Nearby, a wrecked car displayed on a flatbed truck from Bailey’s Towing & Auto Body bore a placard imprinted with a sober message about texting and driving. The front end was smashed and jagged shards of metal protruded from the wheel housing.

Most enjoying the activities at the high school eventually made their way to Merrimack Rocks, a gala outdoor fun fest sponsored by “Platinum sponsor” ESPN New Hampshire and The Monahan Cos, and “Gold sponsor” Veteran Chimney & Stove Shop, 557 Daniel Webster Highway.

The expanse of grassy field in Watson Park that was the site of Merrimack Rocks soon was filled with kids doing handstands and cartwheels between rest stops on their parents’ lawn chairs or blankets spread on the ground. Bungee trampoline jumping and wall climbing,
plus visits with a silky brown Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale added to their excitement.

The Roger Duhamel Pavilion, erected in 2013 through efforts of the Merrimack Rotary Club, was the site where music from The Shotz band and other entertainments were presented.

There, too, was witnessed the bestowal of lifetime achievement awards to four Merrimack residents, including an honor accepted by the family of the late David G. Yakuboff Sr. Other honorees were former Fire Chief Charles Q. Hall, former Police Chief William F. Mulligan and longtime Planning Board member Nelson R. Disco. All were lauded for many years of selfless service to the town.

Michael Baum, owner of Veterans Chimney & Stove Shop, watched the festivities with his mom, Helene Baum, and staffers Olivia Gadbois and Alton Durost. He said Merrimack Rocks is a celebration of community, family and friendship.

“It’s great to see everyone here,” Baum said. “All the sponsors that paid for the free fun are people who are helping people. It’s a good, constant cycle we have here.”

Dusk crept into the park and soon provided Mike Achenbach and Shawn Allison, pyrotechnicians from Atlas Fireworks, a background of darkness sufficient to present a massive fireworks show. The men incorporated 158 explosive cakes that included Black Widows, Pyro Monkeys, Slapshots and a device called Tag, You’re It.

“The reaction of the crowd is what we’re looking for,” Allison said. “Everyone likes to hear the crackle. It’s a type of effect like a popcorn crackle.”