Harold Brooks sets sight on Stoneham

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Harold Brooks sits in the driver’s seat of a former Army truck he used in the Zombie Invasion Farm Ride on his property in Hebron in 2015.

STONEHAM — Harold Brooks likes to dream big.

The 50-year-old grandfather, contractor, entrepreneur, businessman and organizer of multiple mass-gathering events, including the Redneck Blank, Pig Roast and Music Festival, is gearing up to bring his brand of family fun to a quiet, remote former ski lodge next to the White Mountain National Forest.

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The Hebron resident is purchasing 260 acres in the former Evergreen Valley Ski Resort from Bob Bahre, former owner of New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, Oxford Plains Speedway in Oxford and former partner in the Oxford Casino. Bahre purchased the resort for $1.35 million in 1986, three years after the resort closed.

Brooks hopes to bring the Redneck Blank to the long-abandoned resort, along with many other events in a multi-cultural venue that will have some 700 campsites.

He will call it the Evergreen Valley Event and Cultural Center.

Brooks said he envisions a wide variety of events, including music and spiritual festivals, winter activities, holiday meals, a Woodsman Day, exhibits of sculptures and paintings and stage productions. ATVs will not be allowed but he would like to work with local snowmobile clubs to open up trails. He also wants ice cream, picnic tables, hiking trails … the ideas are endless.

“It’s not just about the Redneck Blank. It’s about a bunch of different events,” Brooks said. He plans to restore and live in the farmhouse.

Brooks said he was disappointed in the reaction of some of the 250 Stoneham residents, nearby Lovell residents and others, as his plan took notice.

“I thought I was bringing something great. I was doing something good,” he said.

Brooks said the attacks are heartbreaking to him.

“The negativity has overwhelmed me,” he said.

But he said he has learned a great deal in the past seven years about how to run a successful mass-gathering event and is determined to win over the naysayers. 

“Imagine if we didn’t have the battle. We could work together to make this area great … how much better that would be,” he said.

Restrictions

Developing a mass gathering event in a small town is not new to Brooks.

A member of the Great Falls Balloon Festival board of directors, he has organized such events at his Hebron farm, including Redneck Blank, Redneck Rodeo and the Zombie Invasion farm ride, during which no alcohol was allowed on the premises.

In 2010, he premiered the Redneck Olympics — a camping, dancing, mud-running, wife-carrying, beer-drinking festival— on his 210-acre farm. During his second season he faced a legal challenge from the United States Olympic Committee.

The committee told him to change the name or face a lawsuit.

Brooks said the Olympics had been around for thousands of years and called it a case of large group bullying a small businessman. He renamed it the Redneck Blank, Pig Roast and Music Festival.

The event wasn’t an easy sell in Hebron where selectmen quickly responded by bringing a Mass Gathering Ordinance to annual town meeting that spring. Brooks sat quietly in the gymnasium with some 70 other town meeting voters and answered questions about his plans. The ordinance passed.

The Redneck Blank started as a weekend event and ballooned to a four-day event with thousands traveling down Route 124 to 12 Harold Road in Hebron.

He made it clear that sanitation and order were important to him in this family affair. He brought in dozens of portable potties and they were cleaned every day. Eventually, in response to additional crowds, he hired Maine State Police to keep an eye on things and made it clear he would not tolerate drinking and driving or underage drinking.

This summer, his last Redneck Blank event in Hebron, almost didn’t happen.

In July he gave a public apology in lieu of a fine when it was discovered he had failed to file some ordinance paperwork for his 2016 event. He offered the apology, provided the necessary forms, proof of insurance, and a letter from Maine State Police indicating they would have four officers on hand. Selectmen gave him the go-ahead.

This time, Brooks said he is prepared for the negativity from the Stoneham area.

Stoneham responds

Stoneham Selectman Neil Littlefield said Brooks came before town officials last spring to tell them about his plans.

“We have no control over what he does,” Littlefield said. But what the town did do was to propose a Mass Gathering Ordinance.

If it passes it will control traffic flow, sanitation, trash disposal and fire protection. It also reinforces the prohibition of recreational marijuana sales, which was approved in March by Stoneham voters.

As word has spread about Brooks’ plan, some have expressed opposition.

“It’s distressing to me,” Laurel Jones of Stoneham said, particularly the impact to the environment.

In August, the Planning Board held a public hearing on the ordinance and limited remarks to three minutes each. One of the first questions was whether the ordinance was “close” to Hebron’s ordinance. It is.

Like Hebron, Stoneham does not have a police department and will have to rely on notifying the Oxford County Sherriff’s Office in there are problems.

Concerns such as police protection, fire protection, road conditions, access to the Evergreen Valley timeshares, the lack of cellphone reception, noise, garbage and a great deal of discussion about the impact of a mass gathering on the environment were raised at the meeting.

For his part, Brooks told the Stoneham crowd that it would be at least two years before he was able to hold any type of event on the property. Before then he hopes to meet with residents to discuss their concerns.

Littlefield said the ordinance was not aimed directly at Brooks but concedes there is a great amount of concern about the impact a large gathering will have on the area, particularly the environment.

Marg Crown, president of Evergreen Valley Inn and Villas, told the Planning Board at the public hearing in August that she and the timeshare owners were concerned about getting emergency vehicles up the road and traffic in general.

Others, such as Rumford attorney Seth Carey, asked residents to give Brooks a chance.

“Is Stoneham open for business?” he asked.

Littlefield said the ordinance will come before the a town meeting that has not bee scheduled.

As for Brooks, he says he wants to work with the town of Stoneham – and that his venture will create jobs and benefit the town financially.

“I’m trying to do something good,” he said. “We’re all one people no matter where we come from or what we do. This will be welcoming to all people.”

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net

The farmhouse at the former Evergreen Valley Ski Resort will become home base for Harold Brooks and his family.

The former Evergreen Valley Ski Resort has peaceful bogs and walking trails.

The $1 million base lodge at the former Evergreen Valley Ski Resort in Stoneham was said to feature three cocktail lounges in the 1970s and early 1980s.

An additional nine holes were planned for the nine-hole Robert Trent golf course at the Evergreen Valley Ski Resort but never built.

Evergreen Valley

The Redneck Blank games in Hebron last month featured monster truck action.

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