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Put Free Coffee On Laconia's Main Street, And People Will Come

Organizers expected a nice, somewhat modest turnout for the first try at a New Hampshire Coffee Festival. But then, putting a sign out on Main Street that essentially says “free coffee” has a tendency to over-deliver.

“I literally cried in awe of the turnout and the people coming downtown to celebrate the Coffee Festival with us," promotions committee member Lori Chandler said.

They went through their first 2000 sample cups in an hour. The coffee came from three Laconia area vendors and several out-of-town roasters as well. There was a barbecue grill; the grillmaster had rubbed coffee grounds into a leg of beef – and there was a line down the block so long they ran out of sandwiches. Coffee sack races, a coffee bean bag toss… this was a pretty big to-do.

Coffee roasters say this is part of the growing interest in high quality coffee and in the process of getting coffee from “farm to cup” - a process that Daniel Demers of D Squared Java in Exeter says has been overlooked here.

“Big cities, you see a lot more high quality shops popping up," Demers said. "In New Hampshire there’s not too many that are doing a great job.”

Organizers like John Moriarty of the Laconia Main Street Initiative say the festival is a chance for Laconia to highlight not only its local coffee roasters, but its downtown, which they say doesn’t get as much attention as the city’s more well-known attractions.

“We’re known for Harley Davidsons and Bike Week and that sort of thing, and that’s great, we’re happy to be known for that," Moriarty explains. "But this is another side of us – the coffee sipping, coffee aficionado crowd.”

And let’s face it: coffee is a mechanism by which we get together. When we say “let’s get a cup of coffee,” we’re really saying, “let’s meet up." Coffee is just the way we do it. For this festival, the organizers thought, let’s get people together in downtown Laconia. And what better way to do that then essentially a city-wide cup of coffee?

The big turnout has residents, business owners and festival organizers all hoping this festival will bring… no, I can’t bring myself to do the pun. But Kevin Grollo of Woodshed Coffee Roasters will oblige.

“I think we all hope this creates kind of a buzz for downtown," Grollo says, laughing. "Because I think we all know we need it down here."