Tourism leaders say this year's foliage should extend season through October

New Hampshire Union Leader
October 03. 2018 11:43PM
Color begins to pop along the Ammonoosuc River in Bethlehem on a misty morning earlier this week. (JASON SCHREIBER/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

The foliage may be a little slower than usual in turning this year, but that isn’t bothering the folks at the RiverWalk Resort at Loon Mountain in Lincoln.

“It’s just going to help push us into late October (with more bookings),” General Manager Renee Blood said this week. “From a business perspective, it’s great all the way around.”

State travel officials on Wednesday predicted a record number of visitors and spending for the upcoming Columbus Day Weekend, the state’s third-busiest travel weekend of the year. The New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development expects more than 300,000 out-of-state, overnight visitors will spend more than $115 million in New Hampshire over the long weekend — a 5 percent increase in both spending and visitor totals over last year.

“Huge; it’s a really big weekend,” said Mary Ellen Delaney, co-owner of Delaney’s Hole in the Wall, a North Conway restaurant.

“Consistently over the past couple of years, the fall is very busy and people start coming in the first week in September and will continue to come in until the middle of November,” Delaney said. “That hasn’t changed in the last five years. It stays very, very busy. Weekends, it escalates.”

The state is predicting a record fall season as a whole: 3 million out-of-state overnight visitors spending $1.4 billion.

“I think it’s a little bit later out there this year,” said Brenda Campagna, general manager for Golden Eagle Lodge in Waterville Valley. “October is looking very strong for us.”

Charyl Reardon, operations and marketing manager for the White Mountains Attractions Association, estimated the fall colors are a week to 10 days behind their normal timetable.

“I think it will extend the season for us,” she said. “Instead of ending after Columbus Day weekend, we’ll probably extend the foliage season to almost the end of the month.”

Advance bookings are about 5 percent ahead of this time last year, she said.
Littleton's Pollyanna statue appears to be celebrating the arrival of fall color. Eleanor H. Porter, who wrote the “Pollyanna” children's novels in the early 1910s, was a Littleton native. (JASON SCHREIBER/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

Reardon said she’s hearing anecdotally that more international travelers have been visiting the region in recent years.

At the visitors center off Exit 32 of Interstate 93 in North Woodstock, travelers can sign a chalkboard with their name and home country.

“We’ll see upward of 70 different countries during the year, primarily this time of the year,” Reardon said.

Leaf peepers will be paying an average of 23 cents more a gallon for gas this year, adding only a few dollars to the cost of a round-trip from, say, Boston to Lincoln.

The weekend forecast for the Lincoln area calls for partly to mostly sunny days. High temperatures will top off around 60 degrees on Saturday and in the 60s Sunday and Monday.

An unusually warm September helped delay the changing of colors, according to Heidi Asbjornsen, associate professor of natural resources and the environment at the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station at the University of New Hampshire.

The ingredients for a vibrant foliage season are “lots of clear, dry, sunny days with cool nights (mid-40s) and days that are warm — but not too warm (mid-60s),” she said in an email.

Katelyn Krumperman, who runs NH Grand, which promotes tourism above the notches to the Canadian border, called the colors “way more vibrant” than last year in parts of the North Country — and foreshadowed perhaps what others may see.

“I think we had a very long summer and two weeks ago, we were still seeing temperatures in the 70s and 80s and all of a sudden, it’s fall overnight and the leaves changed just in time,” she said. ”It’s absolutely breathtaking right now.”


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