Issue #19 – Thursday, Sept. 25, 2014
PORTSMOUTH – The First Annual Freecoast Festival took place Sept. 19-20 in the New Hampshire towns of Portsmouth and Newmarket. Over 100 attendees enjoyed a variety of scheduled events, heard presentations from several New Hampshire-based entrepreneurs, and attended the grand opening of the Praxeum, a new co-working space for liberty lovers.
The Festival began Friday evening, Sept. 19th, at The Hotel Portsmouth, the only independently owned and operated hotel in the tourist-friendly small city. Attendees enjoyed a private screening of the feature-length documentary “Hori Smoku – The Life of Norman K. ‘Sailor Jerry’ Collins”. Collins is the father of modern-day tattooing, whose uncompromising lifestyle and larger-than-life persona made him an American legend. Through rare interviews, photographs, and archival footage, Hori Smoku tells the story of this radical entrepreneur who built an underground movement that eventually went mainstream. (Sailor Jerry was a sponsor of the Freecoast Festival.) Attendees also enjoyed complimentary rum-soaked doughnuts made out of Maine potatoes from The Holy Donut in Portland, Maine.
After the screening, a group of approximately 60 attendees walked to the first of four local pubs for an all-evening pub crawl. First stop was the Coat of Arms British pub, where organizer Mike Vine led several rounds of Sailor Jerry’s Liberty Pub Quiz, awarding drink tokens for free cocktails to the first person to answer each question correctly.
Next stop was the strikingly beautiful Rí Rá Irish Pub. According to its website, the pub was “built entirely from authentic pub salvage sourced and meticulously restored in Ireland before being shipped to its new home in Portsmouth. Central in the pub is a restored bar from the famous Pulpit Pub in Waterford, itself constructed from salvage dating to the Georgian period. Also of interest from Ireland is the antique paneling from The Bridge House in Cahir, County Tipperary”. Its ceiling is a glass dome featuring the Great Seal of the State of New Hampshire.
After that the group trekked to the underground bar The Red Door Lounge/Martini Bar, Portsmouth’s “most mysterious nightspot” (no sign marks the location). Sailor Jerry Punch was served in commemorative tin cups that attendees could keep. About two dozen hearty souls (including your SLN reporter!) wrapped up the crawl at the Daniel Street Tavern, which featured karaoke but, oddly, lacked tequila.
Day 2 of the Festival began at 11:30AM at the Stone Church atop Zion Hill in Newmarket. Mike Vine welcomed those in attendance, a diverse crowd that included families with young children, couples attending from out of state, and young, middle-aged and elderly adults. Vine then introduced Adam Schroadter, a pro-liberty State Representative (Rockingham District 17) and the owner of the Stone Church (who graciously donated its use to The Freecoast organization for the day).
Schroadter gave a short but interesting talk about the history of the unique space which he and his wife Suzie turned into “a forever Woodstock-themed music club”. The Stone Church was built in 1832 as a Universalist Meeting House but became a music club in 1969. Over the years it has also served as a Timberland boot factory, and even a roller skating rink! Sadly, government regulations have cut the club’s legal capacity from 250 to 99.
Next on the agenda was a presentation by Dan Innes and his husband Doug Palardy, co-founders and owners of the Hotel Portsmouth. They gave a highly informative talk on the relative ease with which one can start that type of business in New Hampshire, and fielded numerous questions from the crowd. Resources they recommend include the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center; Alpha Loft; and Small Business Administration loans (you pay for them with your taxes, so why not use them?). The Hotel Portsmouth was one of the first hotels in the world to put an Apple iPad in every room, which garnered them national media coverage. Innes and Palardy also emphasized the importance of positive social media.
Next up was Alex McDonald, co-founder of Earth Eagle Brewings, a 24-seat taproom (expanding to 50 seats). McDonald talked about “the New Hampshire Nano-Brewery Revolution” and his experiences opening both A&G Homebrew Supply and a brew pub in New Hampshire. (Note that in NH, a nanobrewery is defined as one that produces under 2000 barrels per year.) McDonald makes use of his background in massage therapy and alternative medicine to brew unique beers made with alternative herbs rather than the standard hops. He says he can’t keep up with market demand!
Kirk McNeil, co-founder of the recently closed Area 23 in Manchester (soon to reopen in Concord), spoke about lessons learned opening a liberty-oriented warehouse space.
The lineup continued with Zach Harvey, co-founder of Lamassu, talking about how one of the world’s first Bitcoin ATM machines was created and made its first public appearance at Liberty Forum in Nashua, New Hampshire.
The President of the Free State Project, Carla Gericke, gave one of her trademark passionate and humorous speeches describing her personal vision of turning New Hampshire into “the Yankee Hong Kong”. Notable quotes included: “Revolution is nigh” and “We [the FSP] are a proven strategy for more liberty”.
Keynote Presentation: Radical Entrepreneurship
Zachary Caceres, Executive Director of the Startup Cities Institute, travelled all the way from Guatemala to give the festival’s keynote address. He gave an inspiring and touching lecture on the topic of radical entrepreneurship, highlighting four famous entrepreneurs from around the world who, in defiance of others’ expectations, created incredible new businesses that both offer valuable social services and are financially successful. They included Indian entrepreneur Devi Shetty, the “Henry Ford” of heart surgery. Shetty is currently working on a new facility in the Cayman Islands, conveniently located an hour’s flight from Miami, opening up his incredibly affordable $1000 heart surgery services to the American market. Another entrepreneur Caceres discussed was Mimi Silbert, founder of the San Francisco-based Delancey Street Foundation that helps drug addicts rehabilitate themselves and puts them to work.
Caceres believes that entrepreneurs have much in common with social misfits, noting that several high profile and extremely successful entrepreneurs were juvenile delinquents. “Contrarians and misfits drive progress”, he stated. “Being an entrepreneur is fighting the battle of ideas”, a phenomenon many libertarians are familiar with. He praised entrepreneurs, pointing out that “Business is just a medium. Entrepreneurship is just an outlet for the basic human drive for creativity.”
The presentations wrapped up at 3:30PM, after which festival attendees had two options: listen to live performances by Rippen E Brakes and Wild Eagle Blues Band at the Stone Church, or take a 3-hour sold-out cruise on a chartered boat in Portsmouth Harbor. Your intrepid reporter chose the cruise, which was delightful. It was almost 70 degrees that day and never got too chilly. The boat included a bar which many guests made use of. Mike Vine and the ship’s captain took turns sharing historical info about landmarks the boat passed. Attendees posed for a number of group photos and enjoyed a beautiful and relaxing cruise up and down the scenic Piscataqua River.
The final event on the day’s agenda was the official grand opening of the Praxeum. A few dozen attendees enjoyed complimentary cocktails and snacks at the first official social event in the new co-working space/meetup location specifically for liberty advocates. The party ran well past midnight, with several attendees taking advantage of one of the last warm evenings of the year by sitting on the roof and admiring the starry night, fully visible despite the Praxeum’s location in downtown Portsmouth.
For those who chose to spend an additional day in Portsmouth, event options included DiscGolf at Bellamy Woods in Dover and brunch at one of Portsmouth’s many fine eateries. Bedrock Gardens in Lee hosted an open house of its 20-acre garden.
Feedback on the event was overwhelmingly positive. “incredible weekend with incredible people” – Kate M. “This was a great and memorable event. Your hard work and vision is much appreciated.” – Todd P. “Anyone who believes that libertarians are only old white rich men should have attended the events this weekend. Freedom comes in many flavors.” – Shawn P.
New Hampshire now has yet another annual liberty-oriented event (along with Liberty Forum, PorcFest and Keenevention) in its arsenal, solidifying its growing reputation as a magnet for those who love liberty and as a premiere liberty tourism destination.