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10 Plus with Charlie St. Clair

Thomas P. Caldwell - June 10, 2013

Charlie St. Clair

Charlie St. Clair

For many people, Charlie St. Clair is Laconia Bike Week, although he is quick to share credit with his colleague, Jennifer Anderson, and the board of directors. Charlie also orchestrates many of the area’s fireworks displays and he is a co-owner of the Laconia Antiques Center. The Laker caught up with Charlie for an interview shortly before the 90th annual Bike Week rally got underway.
1. Where did you grow up?
“I was born right here in Laconia. I’ve spent time in other parts of the country, but this is where I’m from.”
2. What do you like best about the Lakes Region?
“The proximity to the lakes and the mountains; we’re not far from metropolitan Boston, New York City, so it’s a good spot. We’re close to the ocean.”
3. What can you tell us about your family?
“My mother and father both grew up here.”
4. How did you get involved with Bike Week?
“I grew up here, so it’s pretty easy to be involved, if you like motorcycles. I rode with a local motorcycle club for many years. … The job came open and I was in law school at the time and I had to pick one or the other one, and always staying true to not being a financial whiz, I picked this one.”
5. What’s the best thing about the job?
“I like motorcycles, and really enjoy dealing with motorcyclists — mostly they’re my kind of people — so that’s been a good benefit of the job. For the most part, I’m working with people I care to work with and want to be associated with. … Certainly this job has opened up a chance to be meeting people from all  walks of life and from all around the world. So I feel fortunate to have it. And it put me together with my colleague at work, Jennifer Anderson. I never would have dreamed that I’d be so fortunate as to have someone to work with of her caliber — and her patience.”
6. How do you make Motorcycle Week work?
“You get a lot of people to work with you. … As it’s evolved over the last 20 years, you work with a lot of agencies, at the state, county, and local levels, and we work closely with our sister rallies, in Sturgis and Daytona, and that all falls together. And with the state tourism department, because it really is a statewide event. And our neighboring states also benefit from it.”
6. What are the challenges you face?
“The biggest challenge is trying to get people to realize that it’s not 1955 when Motorcycle Week is  one of the few motorcycle happenings in the country; that we are faced with over 500 events that call themselves motorcycle events. We have to get people to come back to Laconia and keep coming back to Laconia despite all these other choices they have. It’s hard, and expensive. But the payoff is well worth it, if you think of the potential of what every visitor who comes will spend in our state.”
7. What’s the best thing about the job?
“Seeing happy visitors.”
8. What is your biggest worry?
“The number one concern is the safety of our visitors — motorcycle riders and people coming in other vehicles. With so many on the roads, we constantly worry and harp on people taking their time and making sure everyone is safe. My other big worry is weather. Weather is king, and like everybody who deals with outside businesses, you always keep an eye on the sky.”
9. How did you get involved with the Laconia Antiques Center?
“That’s my parents’ fault. They had a much different antiques business that they were involved with for 40 years, and they constantly encouraged me to get involved with it, and I didn’t. Sadly, it wasn’t until right before my parents passed away that I got involved in this business at this level. I enjoy seeing this building productive again. It’s nice watching the ice cream and lunch counter being put back into productive use by the Downtown Deli.”
10. And how did you get involved with fireworks?
“When you think about growing up in Laconia, you’re exposed to so many things here. … As a teenager I spent as much time as I could at Weirs Beach in the summer. … Fireworks was a big thing at Weirs Beach then. … Growing up, being exposed to fireworks, I happened to ask a gentleman that was on the beach if he needed some help with the fireworks, and he asked me what my experience was at digging holes. That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. I’ve been with [Atlas Advanced Pyrotechnics] since 1969. … The shows that I’ve been doing for years now with my crew are Ashland, Wolfeboro, and I’ll be back at Weirs Beach here at midnight on July 4. And I do Gilford Old Home Day, too.”
11. What do you do to get away from it all?
“I like to sit in front of the TV with Turner Classic Movies, and I love to take very long rides on my motorcycle — thousands of miles; I’ll be on the road 10-14 days. I’m fortunate that I’ve been able to manipulate my schedule to be able to do that. I’m fortunate to be living the life I live.”
12. What are your favorite places to go?
“I enjoy going to large cities, like New York City, or Chicago, Denver, Cleveland, Boston.”
13. What’s next for you?
“Life is so fleeting that I just take it day by day. I just try to stay healthy, and that seems to be a job in itself.”
14. You had a bad accident last year. Has that caused you to change your approach to life?
“I try not to ride at night as much. But, really, in the big picture, this has been work for me, but all you have to do is take two seconds to look around and there are so many people who are so much less fortunate with regard to accidents or tragedies, that I’ve got it made in the shade. … When I look at our service people and people in the Boston Marathon, and things like that, it just causes me to twist inside, knowing what they’re going through; not to mention all the other health problems people can have. So, really, I’m not complaining at all. I was thrown a lucky hand of cards, walking away from this thing. So like every smart person in the world, I look at every day as a blessing, even with all the aggravations. I’m just happy to wake up.” 

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