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0000017a-15d9-d736-a57f-17ff90110000A series examining daily life in the nation's largest state legislature.

For the First Time, Again: The State House (And Its Gift Shop) Welcome You Back

Rep. Ralph Boehm speaks with State House Visitor Center Director Virginia Drew inside the visitors' center on reopening day of the State House.
Josh Rogers, NHPR
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The visitors' center was still relatively quiet, said its director Virginia Drew. She did get a visit from Rep. Ralph Boehm, of Litchfield.

New Hampshire’s State House reopened to the public today after closing due to the pandemic last fall.

Committee rooms were alternately abuzz and quiet on Monday as teams of legislative negotiators worked to reach agreement on dozens of bills. State House Visitor Center Director Virginia Drew stood ready, crowd count clicker in hand, to welcome people back.

“A visitors’ center without visitors has been very depressing,” Drew said. “And we have a gift shop that hasn’t done very well without having anyone come in.”

(We want to hear from you: What are you excited to do for the first time, again? Let us know at voices@nhpr.org.)

Rep. Ralph Boehm, stopping in to say hello, suggested the visitors’ center might do better if it had a catalog. (It does, in fact, have an online store.) But Drew had another idea for how to boost business.

“I want you to buy everything,” she told the lawmaker. “You’re getting $200 every two years.”

Boehm, a Litchfield Republican in his seventh term, let out a big sigh.

“That’s pocket money,” he said, with a laugh.

On a typical year, more than 15,000 people might pass through the State House lobby in search of a tour, or a souvenir. On reopening day, Drew allowed things were kind of slow so far — but looking up.

“We had a little boy come in and be like, ‘Ah, it’s like a palace,’” she said. “And that was nice.”

If you're planning to do something for the first time again, we'd love to help share your story. Send an email about your plans to voices@nhpr.org, or leave us a voicemail at 603-513-7790. Click here for more details on how to participate.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.

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