During the final weekend of September, just as the maple trees were starting to turn red up north, hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts gathered in Franconia, NH for Granite Outdoor Alliance’s second annual Graniteer festival. The Alliance describes this event as an outdoor lifestyle festival that unites different aspects of the state’s outdoor industry, including “career, volunteer, frontier, beer, gear and cheer!” This year, around 750 attendees were able to explore over 85 vendor booths and a variety of activities, all in a scenic, small-town setting.
Despite our state’s relatively small size, we are lucky to have a diversity of regions in New Hampshire, from seacoast to lakes, and mountains to river valleys, each with their own appealing landscapes and recreational opportunities. Gatherings like the Graniteer create valuable forums to bring together outdoor industry professionals, community stakeholders, and other interested individuals who might not otherwise have many chances to convene in one place for more than a short time. As a 2-day event, the Graniteer offers ample opportunities for acquaintances to reconnect, and for outdoor businesses and organizations to share their missions and projects with a broader audience.
The University of New Hampshire has been involved with Granite Outdoor Alliance since its founding days, so it’s not surprising that the Graniteer featured several UNH-based programs as vendors and participants. UNH Extension’s Community and Economic Development (CED) team brought an outreach booth, generating numerous conversations with attendees from across the state about community priorities pertaining to outdoor recreation development. In particular, the team was able to share updates about its Downtowns & Trails program, which is currently working with the town of Hopkinton in Contoocook Village. Our CED team also asked attendees what excited them about New Hampshire’s Outdoor Economy and the responses were very interesting. Clearly food and outdoor activity go well together, and communities would do well to include food, coffee, ice cream, beer, and other sundries along with greenway and blueway offerings.
Also at the Graniteer, UNH Extension’s Nature Groupie program was building enthusiasm and support for outdoor volunteering opportunities statewide. UNH’s Recreation Management and Policy (RMP) department brought several students to volunteer and participate in the event, while department faculty and staff shared with attendees the variety of recreation-related undergraduate and master’s programs available in Durham. The evening before the main festival day, two UNH faculty members (Jada Lindblom from Extension’s CED team and RMP department and Torey Lee Brooks, an avid skier and green building design instructor) were featured in the “Women of Industry” panel at Iron Furnace Brewing, sharing their stories of how they came to find meaningful careers related to outdoor recreation.
For attendees, one of the most exciting aspects of the Graniteer festival is being able put names to faces and have dedicated time to network across businesses, nonprofits, coalitions, agencies, and institutions. Numerous UNH Extension Community and Economic Development state and community collaborators were also in attendance this year, such as NH’s Office of Outdoor Recreation Industry Development, Highland Mountain Bike Park, Veterans Memorial Recreation Area, the Connecticut River Conservancy, and NH State Parks. In addition to providing great live music and useful demonstrations, the festival offered a needed opportunity for outdoor recreation enthusiasts and advocates to get outside, gather together, catch up, and make plans.
If the Graniteer festival sounds like something you would enjoy or benefit from attending, check out Granite Outdoor Alliance and stay tuned for future events.