By Jo-Anne MacKenzie
---- — Just a dozen states still have a single area code. That’s pretty unique.
New Hampshire is one of those states, but there’s a lot more unique about it than its 603 designation.
We decided to see if our readers could generate 603 reasons why New Hampshire is special.
Most people think their home state is special, but we always thought New Hampshire residents were fiercer than most.
We were right.
We dubbed the project “603 Reasons” and asked readers of The Eagle-Tribune and the Derry News to tell us what they like most about the Granite State.
The responses were as diverse as the state’s geography, thoughtful, predictable and unexpected.
The state motto, Live Free or Die, got lots of votes. So, too, did poet Robert Frost, Derry’s own Alan B. Shepard Jr., Christa McAuliffe and Adam Sandler.
Lots of other people made the list, some historical figures, some inventors, some celebrities.
New Hampshire lays claim to the country’s 14th president, Franklin Pierce. It also is home to the first-in-the-nation primary, a fact some enjoy for the opportunity to meet the next White House resident.
Outdoor activities — fishing, boating, hunting, hiking, skiing — all ranked high.
Many natural wonders — Mount Washington, the Flume, Franconia Notch — made the list.
A lot of people like what the state doesn’t have — helmet or mandatory seat-belt laws, no sales or income taxes. They also prefer it to Massachusetts.
Plenty of restaurants and attractions were mentioned, from the rival lobster pounds in Seabrook to artisan ice cream shops.
Santa’s Village, Clark’s Trading Post and Story Land were popular, but so were memories of Benson’s Animal Farm.
New Hampshire’s proximity to Boston, Canada and Maine matters to many, who consider its location the best possible. That includes four distinct seasons and the opportunity to experience rural and urban life simultaneously.
Fresh air, plenty of fresh and salt water, and weather that’s diverse enough to keep life interesting matter.
Individualism, small and accessible government, and Second Amendment rights all figured in many people’s answers.
Many people responded on Facebook, others by email and a few took the time to write letters. In all cases, residents’ passion and love for their state shone through.
Salem resident and Lawrence native Frank Baggett wrote a thoughtful and touching letter. He and his wife bought a home and moved to New Hampshire in 1954.
Forty-seven years and seven children later, the state bought that home for the Interstate 93 widening project and the Baggetts moved to Canobie Lake.
“It is Canobie Lake that makes New Hampshire so special for us,” Frank wrote.
He went on to describe the abundant wildlife on, in and near the lake. He mentioned carrying on a conversation with occupants of a low-flying hot air balloon and their terrific neighbors on the lake.
“My wife and I are in our 80s nows and enjoying life to no end, thanks to Canobie Lake, where every day is a vacation day,” he concluded.
Some mentioned the sensory pleasures associated with the Granite State, the juiciness of a freshly picked peach, the smell of maple syrup rising from a sugarhouse, the crunch of boots on a cold January morning, the call of a cardinal from a tall pine.
Answers continue to trickle in, but we stopped the list at 603. But it’s really just a starting point for the next 12 months. In the year ahead, reporters will examine many of the reasons our readers cited and take a closer look at some.
We will try to see how these 603 reasons have shaped the state, its place in the nation, its economy, government, tourism and, in some cases, at what cost.
We’re grateful to all who responded and eager to begin the yearlong “603 Reasons” project.
Jo-Anne MacKenzie is the New Hampshire editor of The Eagle-Tribune and editor of the Derry News. Follow her on Twitter @etnheditor or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.