Sean Hurley

North Country Reporter

Sean Hurley lives in Thornton with his wife Lois and his son Sam.  An award-winning playwright and radio journalist, his fictional “Atoms, Motion & the Void” podcast has aired nationally on NPR and Sirius & XM Satellite radio.  When he isn't writing stories or performing on stage, he likes to run in the White Mountains. He can be reached at 

Sean Hurley

With yet another storm bringing rain and snow and ice to New Hampshire, NHPR's Sean Hurley went into downtown Plymouth to see how folks there were holding up.

Standing out on Main Street in Plymouth, I heard variations on the theme of "Please oh please, will someone stop the snow from snowing."  Except from the unusual Kayla Grimes clearing the sidewalk with her trusty shovel in front of Plymouth Ski and Sport where she works.

I love shoveling. 
Do you?
Yeah! I don't ski or snowboard. 
You shovel. 
I shovel.

Sean Hurley

The annual town meeting at Hart's Location might be a small affair, but it usually attracts almost 80 per cent of its registered voters and this year was no different.

Not far from Bretton Woods and Mount Washington - the biggest ski area in the state and our highest mountain - sits the smallest town in New Hampshire - Hart's Location. Population, I'm told, just under 40.

Before the town meeting begins, Moderator Les Shoof announces the unofficial results of the just completed town election.

Sean Hurley

North Conway's Sean Doherty, at 18, is the youngest member of the US Olympic Biathlon team.  While most people know the Biathlon combines skiing with shooting, the finer points are a little elusive.  NHPR's Sean Hurley recently visited the Jackson Biathlon range - the only dedicated course in New Hampshire - to find out more about the sport.

Sean Hurley

The combination of fresh snow and February school vacation should mean brisk business for our New Hampshire ski areas.  As the vacation week opens up, NHPR's Sean Hurley and his son Sam went to Loon Mountain and sends us this audio postcard.

Loon Mountain is capsized by high winds and cloudy torrents and the rough air means the gondola has been shut down for the day.  But the early arriving vacationers don't seem to mind.

Sean Hurley

Another big snowstorm has come and gone, but with every storm, some things stay the same. 

With the arrival of every big winter storm, two amazing and very common things happen. 

The first before the storm:

I gotta get the bread and milk!  They said snow!  I gotta get the bread and milk.

We have to get the bread and the milk.  We stock up. We get ready for life underground. Because who knows how hard this thing is gonna hit. 

The Road Agent

Feb 13, 2014
Sean Hurley

In the summer, the Road Agent in a small New Hampshire town will handle everything from ditches to tree-work to regrading.  But in the winter, there's pretty much one job.  Keeping the roads clear of snow and ice.  As this winter storm bears down, NHPR's Sean Hurley caught up with the local Road Agent in his hometown of Thornton to see how the town plows will handle the fresh snow.

John Kubik, Road Agent for the Town of Thornton, glances down at the inch of snow gathering around his boots.

A Tale Of Two Castles

Feb 12, 2014
Sean Hurley / NHPR

I love moats.  I always have. I never made sand castles at the beach.  Just moats.  If I saw a kid dripping sand over a turret-y structure I'd say - hey that thing needs a moat, am I right?  Like a used moat salesman, I'd drop to my knees and start moating away. When I visited Lance Keene last year at the castle he's been building for almost a decade on a cliff in Thornton, moats were on my mind.

Sean:  Will there be a moat?

Lance:  You know what, people always ask that? Is there gonna be a moat? Do you think I can put a moat here?  I'm on a cliff.  I'm on the side of a cliff.

Sean: And dungeon?

Oh I love dungeons too. The old wisecracking skinny guy in the caveman t-shirt with his stick arms in the shackles?


Sean Hurley

For the first time in its 138 year history, the Westminster Kennel Club will allow the Chinook, NH’s official state dog, to compete in its annual "Best in Show" competition at Madison Square Garden.  One of the four Chinook's vying to be top dog is Birr, from Londonderry.  NHPR's Sean Hurley visited with Birr and his owners Kris and Chester Holleran, to find out more about the rare dog and the rarefied Westminster Best in Show pageant.

Poetry Foundation

The Pulitzer-winning poet Maxine Kumin died Thursday at her home in Warner, where she and her husband lived for almost four decades. 

Born in Philadelphia, Maxine Kumin taught at Universities in Boston.  But, hating the city, Kumin and her husband moved to a farm in Warner, which they called the “Pobiz” farm. They lived together there for almost four decades, where they raised horses and grew vegetables. 

From 1981-1981, Kumin served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in Washington DC, a role now called the US poet laureate.

Richard C Pollock

Before the 2012 Presidential election, a Gallup poll asked voters to rank presidential priorities. The poll found reducing corruption ranked second. Good jobs ranked first. Despite that, issues surrounding campaign finance reform were never discussed by major candidates. Harvard Law School Professor Lawrence Lessig wants campaign finance on the agenda the next time voters pick a President. That's why he founded what he’s calling the New Hampshire Rebellion, and leading a Granny D-inspired walk across New Hampshire.

NHPR's Sean Hurley sends us this report.

For the last 16 years, since Martin Luther King Day was approved as a statewide holiday here in New Hampshire, Sandi Clarke of Newington has put together evenings of gospel and dramatic readings to remember and reflect on the civil rights leaders legacy.  NHPR's Sean Hurley spoke to Clarke and has this preview of tonight's "Set the House on Fire" event at the Newington Town Church.

Sandi Clarke grew up the racially mixed town of Elmira, New York.  But when she was 14, her family's house burned down and they were forced to relocate to the all white town of Elmira Heights.

Loon Mountain

With only 6 to 8 inches of fresh powder, most New Hampshire ski areas aren't exactly reeling from the storm.  But even a little snow can bring skiers to the mountains.

Greg Kwasnik, marketing director at Loon Mountain is expecting a surge of skiers.

Up here we didn't have such a huge impact that people had in Southern New Hampshire so I think a lot of people will shovel their driveways and then get up here.  They might get here a little later than they anticipated but I think we'll see some strong business today.

Sean Hurley

Utah has one.  Colorado does too.  And now New Hampshire has its very own Ice Castle open to the public at Loon Mountain.  It's taken Mother Nature and 20 workers about a month to turn tons of homemade icicles into a glacial maze of frozen caverns and clear blue coliseums.  NHPR's Sean Hurley recently took a tour of the nearly completed castle and sends us this report.

Sean Hurley

For the last 3 years, NHPR's Sean Hurley and his family get a $5 permit to cut down their Christmas Tree in the White Mountain National Forest and every year, as Sean explains in this audio postcard, they run into the same problem. 

We walk beside an ice snagged brook looking for the balsam fir we tagged with a purple ribbon the month before.  My wife Lois leads us along, interpreting the wildlife signs as we go.

Sherwin Sleeves

Christmas songs can quickly puncture the spirit of the season with deep rancor. NHPR’s Sean Hurley found this out for himself, when he decided to compose a new Christmas carol. Sean's song, “The Christmas La La Song” was picked up by Sirius XM shock jocks Opie and Anthony. We’ll let Sean pick it up from there. And a reminder that these are the kind of radio personalities that love to inflame…

The Composer Next Door

Dec 17, 2013
Sean Hurley

USA Today recently published a list of the fastest growing professions in the United States.  Music Composer came in at #3.  Everything, in this digital age, needs music.  With advances in technology, today's orchestras are more often found on hard drives in basements than symphony hall. NHPR's Sean Hurley has this profile of music professor and film composer Rik Pfenninger of Holderness.

It's 3:30 AM in Holderness and Plymouth State University Professor of Saxophone Rik Pfenninger is practicing in the soundproofed basement of his house. 

Sean Hurley for NHPR

What happens when a veritable Grinch is confronted by unbridled Christmas spirit? Last year we sent favorite contributor Sean Hurley to visit a town Time Magazine dubbed one of America's "most Christmassy":

Is there a better place to celebrate Christmas than Vermont, where the air has a fragrance of pine needles and the ground is (most likely) dusted with snow? For the past 25 years, Woodstock has hosted Wassail Weekend, a pre-Christmas festival that is rooted in 19th century Norse culture and traditions. While the city itself is a sight to see during the holiday season, Wassail Weekend brings a distinctive parade of more than 50 horses and riders adorned in holiday costumes and period dress, as well as wagon and sleigh rides, a wassail feast and tours of the city's most notable historic buildings ... It's everything you imagine Christmas to be, but so much more. -Time Magazine

He was, perhaps, a bit of a Scrooge about it.

Bruce Lyndes / Plymouth State University

Executive Councilor Ray Burton, who died November 12th, was remembered yesterday at  a Memorial Service held at Plymouth State University.  Dignitaries large and small gathered together with Burton's friends and family to remember the longtime political face of the North Country.  NHPR's Sean Hurley attended the event and sends us this report.

Lois Hurley

Most of us here in New Hampshire saw our first snowflakes of the year this week.  It's a gentle reminder that winter is on its way.  On this holiday that for many of us kicks off a frenzied season of shopping and parties, NHPR's Sean Hurley pauses to reflect on what it means as winter rolls in.

Winter comes in like a winter coat. Down from the storage closet to hang in the dark front hall to wait by the door. 

Sean Hurley / NHPR

On September 28, 1863, Sarah Josepha Hale of Newport, New Hampshire, wrote a letter to President Lincoln.  The author of Mary Had A Little Lamb and one of America’s first female novelists wrote, "The subject is to have the day of our annual thanksgiving made a national holiday."  Lincoln, a great observer of the wisdom of others, quickly agreed and in 1863 Thanksgiving became our third national holiday alongside Washington’s birthday and Independence Day. 

NHPR’s Sean Hurley set out to discover what Thanksgiving was really like during Sarah Josepha Hale's time. His tack: participating in a 19th century re-creation at the Remick Country Doctor Museum.

Keene State College

Acworth poet Alice Fogel has been named New Hampshire’s next poet laureate.

The Executive Council approved Governor Maggie Hassan’s nomination at a meeting Wednesday.

Alice Fogel was selected from a group of 17 poets nominated for the distinction.

Kyle Potvin of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire, one of the groups that coordinated the nomination process, says Fogel’s literary reputation made her an ideal candidate.

Sean Hurley

When poet Robert Frost returned to New Hampshire from England in 1915 he moved his family into a small farmhouse in Franconia.  Since 1976, when the town of Franconia purchased the property, The Frost Place has provided a glimpse at the poet's life from a hundred years ago.  His old chair sits near his old desk near his old wallpaper.

Frost Place Director Maudelle Driskell says volunteer Dee Macoun was emptying the contents of a small closet during a routine clean up when she noticed something unusual about the large slab of wood supporting a shelf. 

Sean Hurley

It was 1918 when the Red Sox last did it.   And they did it again last night, winning the World Series in front of a hometown crowd, beating the St. Louis Cardinals 6-1.  Here in New Hampshire, the reaction was swift and loud, as Sean Hurley reports. 

Jeff Chapel from Thornton watches the game at his hometown bar, the Woodpecker Pub. It's only the 6th inning, but he's ready for his World Series pilgrimage.

Sean Hurley

Abigail Hernandez has now been missing for 19 days.  Although thousands of acres have been combed and hundreds of tips have been followed, both the FBI and local police still don't know what happened between 3 and 4 in the afternoon on October 9th when Abby disappeared.  Despite this, the Hernandez family and the local community remain hopeful. On Saturday night nearly 500 people attended a flashlight vigil in Schouler Park in downtown North Conway meant to light the way home for Abby.  Sean Hurley was there and has this report. 

Sean Hurley

New Hampshire will soon have a new poet laureate. W.E. "Walter" Butts held that post until he died earlier this year.

Butts lived with his wife, the poet S Stephanie, in a small house on a quiet side street in Manchester.  

We shared all our work together, you know like I would write a poem and bring it up to him and he would write a poem and bring it to me.  We were always critiquing each other's work, supporting each other's work.

Don Pettit

NASA’s Don Pettit has been back from his last mission aboard the International Space Station for over a year, but his blog “Letters to Earth” remains one of the most fascinating and profound windows into the creative and emotional life of an astronaut.  While in space he penned and published poetry, An Astronaut’s Guide to Space Etiquette, and the series, “Diary of a Space Zucchini”, which detailed life on the ISS from the unusual perspective of a se

Sean Hurley

In 2006, Plymouth resident and PSU Music Professor Jonathan Santore was named New Hampshire Composer of the year.  Just last month, he was awarded The American Prize in Choral Composition for 2013. As he tells NHPR's Sean Hurley, he's come a long way since playing trumpet for his high school marching band in Tennessee. 

French composer Erik Satie once remarked, "Before I write a piece, I walk around it several times, accompanied by myself,"  It's a creative prelude that Plymouth composer Jonathan Santore finds absolutely necessary.

Sean Hurley

They eat your crops, they scold you from the treetops, they prey on songbirds.  Experts consider the crow, which can use tools and recognize human faces, one of the smartest birds.  And while many people don’t know it, crows are also hunted in NH.

Sean Hurley

Ringing with cannon fire and musket shots, the fields at the base of Mount Washington became a colonial encampment for dozens of reenactors at this weekend's "Muster in the Mountains".  As NHPR's Sean Hurley reports, French and Indian War militia men camped beside Revolutionary War "sutlers" and all of them hung out with the trappers and mountain men in this time traveling rendez-vous for 18th and 19th century roleplayers.

John Maxon, in French and Indian war era period garb describes the anachronistic scene playing out in the field behind him.

Sam T via flickr Creative Commons

Robert Frost recited "The Gift Outright" at John F. Kennedy's swearing in in 1961 and became the first ever Inaugural Poet.  Since then,  there have been only 4 others asked to honor the occasion with a poem.  With “One Today” Richard Blanco (pronounced Blonko) became the first immigrant, the first Latino, the first openly gay person - as well as the youngest - to write a poem for the transfer of power.  Fitting then that Blanco should be invited to read at Frost Farm in Derry, home of the nation’s first Inaugural Poet.