There is something magical about campfires isn't there? Throughout history, some of the greatest ideas, movements and friendships have started around campfires.
A few weeks ago, I was cleaning out a box of old paperwork when I found something surprising and timely, considering that FSP had just announced the week before that the move had been triggered. An old, forgotten notepad on which I had jotted handwritten notes taken at the very first meeting, in late 2002, of the “Welcome to the Granite State Committee” formed by three members of LPNH: Rich Tomasso, George Reich, and me. Our stated goal for the committee was to promote New Hampshire as the best state for FSP members to choose. We were all members of FSP, and were committed to moving if another state was selected, but we passionately believed NH was the best choice.
Among some of the other ideas we brainstormed during that meeting, with hasty notes documenting them in my notepad, were two that really made me smile broadly when I read them again, recently. The first was the idea for a “webpage or flyer summarizing why we believe NH is #1.” As you may have guessed, this was the idea that I ran with a few months later, expanding and morphing into “101 Reasons to Vote for New Hampshire” which you all know now as “101 Reasons to Move to New Hampshire.”
The second idea was for “some sort of convention? Maybe in May or June?” Ha! Can you guess what this became?
I vividly remember tossing this idea around between the three of us. We knew that if we could just convince other FSP members to visit NH, see the beauty of the state first hand, meet the people and experience our “Live Free or Die” culture for themselves, they would grow to love the state just as much as we did. We came up with a few potential locations, but it was George who had the winner. When he went hiking he often stayed at “Roger’s Campground” in Lancaster which he convinced us would be ideal not only for the diversity of lodging options (campsites, cabins, and hotel rooms) but because it would route attendees right through some of the most beautiful spots in the state. Best of all, none of us could imagine a better way for people to bond than over a campfire. Roger’s would be perfect. None of us had ever organized anything like it before, but we went to work enthusiastically, and by the end of February 2003, I excitedly announced on the FSP forum that June 21-29 of that summer we would be hosting an “Escape to New Hampshire” getaway vacation to promote the Free State Project in NH.
I’m told that Escape to New Hampshire is now referred to as Porcfest Zero. After the vote later that fall, when NH was officially chosen as the state of choice for FSP to target, it was decided by the FSP leadership to carry on the tradition of the event – in the same location, the same week – but renamed Porcfest. But none of us could have foreseen that in 2003. That year it was Escape to NH, and we had no idea what to expect! I remember driving up to Lancaster, my camper in tow and filled with the chicken, hamburgers, and fixings for pasta salad that I had purchased at the local Sam’s Club and planned to cook with my husband’s help the next night, for a welcome dinner for what I hoped would be 40-50 people. Inside, I was secretly scared that despite all the planning and preparation, nobody would show up and I was in for a lonely, quiet week of camping, eating lots of chicken and pasta salad.
Nothing could have been further from the truth! The newspaper clippings that I still have from the remarkably positive coverage we got that week, tell me that we hosted more than 150 attendees representing 22 states, and that number burgeoned even more the final weekend when we had speakers and vendor tables set up for freedom-oriented organizations in the state. We had arranged for tours all over the state, a personal audience with then-Governor Craig Benson for a small group, fun family outings, a trip to a shooting range, and one night another LPNH member even hosted a party in nearby Jefferson for everyone (I laughingly remember the long convoy of vehicles packed full with FSP members leaving Roger’s for the short drive to the party location) where he treated us to a cookout and fireworks display.
But, we had purposely designed and promoted the event as a “week of fun, relaxation, information sharing, and new friendships” and THAT is what I remember most. The people that I met that week became some of the best friends I have ever had - the people I spent the next few years strategizing with, collaborating on projects with, and celebrating with, first when New Hampshire was chosen, and later as each new person and each new family moved to join us in New Hampshire.
One of the most memorable of the attendees at Escape to New Hampshire (and those of you who know him understand why I say “most memorable”), Dave Mincin, moved from Pennsylvania to the Seacoast region of NH just a few short months later. We grew to love Dave like a member of our family and a couple of years later, when I started to get a bit tired and worn out from my many years of activism, it was Dave’s enthusiasm and commitment that energized me and inspired me to stick with it, albeit in quieter and less public ways. He still has that effect on me today!
Although by 2004, I had moved on to helping create and establish the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance, and did not get involved in organizing it, I did attend the next Porcfest. That year was a big celebration, and rather than marketing NH as a potential great place to live, the emphasis had shifted to introducing NH to the visitors and FSP members who had made a commitment to moving here. But that was it. Other than a brief visit one day a few years later, other obligations always seemed to pop up that week and I hadn’t been back.
Until 2013 that is, for the 10th anniversary of Porcfest Zero when I brought a good friend to introduce him to the FSP, and then again, in 2014 when I stayed the entire week. Wow! I don’t even have the words to explain the exhilaration and pride that I felt when I saw for myself and experienced the extraordinary event that Porcfest has become. “Some sort of convention? Maybe in May or June?” has transformed into one of the largest freedom-oriented gatherings in the country, covered by some of the most prominent media outlets in the world, and attracting as speakers many of my greatest heroes in the liberty movement.
But what strikes me the most? The friendships, alliances, and great ideas that were spawned at Porcfest Zero. The idea for the New Hampshire Liberty Alliance was just one of those. Many of the greatest successes that Porcupines have enjoyed in the state since 2003, came out of conversations that just a few early FSP members had while sharing campfires at Porcfest Zero.
I’ll be attending Porcfest 2016, celebrating the life-changing idea that Jason Sorens envisioned and the incredible people who are helping to turn his vision into a reality in New Hampshire. I’ll be celebrating the move that has been triggered and welcoming what I expect will be my many new neighbors in the state.
But what will really be on my mind as I walk through the paths connecting the huge property at Roger’s Campground? It will be the campfires. Countless hundreds of them now, rather than the half dozen or so that we had in 2003. And gathering around those campfires hundreds and thousands of like-minded, freedom-loving people sharing thoughts, hopes, dreams, and ideas. And as I have well learned, even the simplest of ideas in the hands of committed activists can turn into amazing, even life-changing events and movements. So many amazing, committed people. So many great ideas and amazing things to come. So much to celebrate! I hope you will join us.