Canadian flag flies high at Hampton Beach
Four flags, including the Canadian flag, fly in front of the Sea Shell stage at Hampton Beach on Saturday. (Gretyl Macalaster/Union Leader Correspondent)
"This is a marketing thing. We have a lot of Canadians that are coming to visit, and I think this is just paying some respect to the Canadian neighbors who are visiting, and we're recognizing them with a big old flag. It's not like we're going to fly the flag of Massachusetts, for heaven's sakes."
-- Peter Burdett, chairman of the State Veterans Advisory Committee.
Four flagpoles at the new Seashell complex at Hampton Beach State Park prominently display the U.S. flag, the blue state flag, the black POW/MIA flag and the red-and-white flag of Canada.
Officials have not heard any objections. Peter Burdett is chairman of the State Veterans Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from veterans services organizations. He said he's never heard any complaints about New Hampshire flying the flag of a foreign nation at the beach.
Ask state officials why New Hampshire flies the Canadian flag at its most popular beach and the general consensus seems to be: We've always done it that way.
A few people at the beach June 29 shared their thoughts.
"I don't like it. This isn't Canada," said Korean War veteran Don Barrett of Merrimack. "Why not fly a Cuban flag?"
He said he has been to Canada a few times and has never seen an American flag flying.
Paul Viau was at the beach with his wife, Pauline.
"I don't have a problem with it. The Canadians come down and support us," Paul Viau said. "With the number of Canadians that are here it is a nice, friendly gesture on our part.''
Hundreds of thousands
Canadians are by far the largest group of international visitors to New Hampshire, Bryce said. More than 424,200 tourists from Canada visited the state in 2011, according to the state tourism office.
When state officials were evaluating plans for the redevelopment of Hampton Beach State Park, the question arose of whether all four flags would remain part of the display.
"Obviously, we welcome any international visitors to Hampton, but there are an awful lot of Canadian visitors to our state and specifically to Hampton Beach, and we felt that it was a way of being respectful to them, that we honor them," Bald said.
Bryce also noted there's a rich French-Canadian heritage in New Hampshire, especially in cities such as Manchester and Berlin.
"We have really close ties to Canada, so it's just a way of expressing our appreciation for our relationship," he said.
Amy Bassett, assistant director of the state Division of Travel and Tourism, has worked for the state for 20 years. She said the Canadian flag has flown at the beach as long as she can remember.
And these visitors appreciate having their flag flown here, Noel said. "They love to see that. We hear it all the time from the Canadian visitors."
"We want folks to feel welcome when they're in our parks - and we want them to understand the signs, too," he said.