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A trio of prancing unicorns, a juggling unicyclist, a pair of hula dancers and a poetry-spouting Walt Whitman were among the newest entrants Saturday into the colorful history of the Mount Washington Auto Road inspired by Alton Weagle.
GREEN’S GRANT — A trio of prancing unicorns, a juggling unicyclist, a pair of hula dancers and a poetry-spouting Walt Whitman were among the newest entrants Saturday into the colorful history of the Mount Washington Auto Road inspired by Alton Weagle.
Weagle recorded a number of “firsts” on the auto road, including being the first person to climb it walking backward, at night, blindfolded, and, most famously, while pushing a wheelbarrow full of sugar.
When the auto road — which is the oldest manmade attraction in North America — celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2011, it held a “first ascents” event inspired by Weagle that has continued annually since then.
Weagle “… was a pretty crazy guy,” said Dan Szczesny, a journalist and author living in Manchester who is writing a book about Mount Washington that includes a section on Weagle. Yesterday, Szczesny came to the auto road dressed as Whitman and read from “Leaves of Grass” as he ascended the 7.6 mile route.
“He (Weagle) was known as Mr. Mount Washington in the 1940’s,” Szczesny said, “and today I’ll be bridging the gap between two gentleman wanderers: Walt Whitman and Alton Weagle.”
Linda Hindle, a family practitioner from Georgetown, Mass., made a further connection between Weagle and the late Otok Ben-Hvar, who was arguably among his most inspired successors.
Ben-Hvar, who died in 2016 at the age of 79, intended to go up the auto road in 2014 on roller skates, using a cartoonishly-large rocket to propel himself. That did not succeed, although in 2013, Ben-Hvar did roll up the auto road tucked within a series of inner tubes.
Apart from his creativity in New Hampshire, Ben-Hvar made national headlines when he rode a lawnmower from Old Orchard Beach, Maine, to Los Angeles, Calif., in 1988 and also when he tried to set a world record for longest time spent in a telephone booth.
Lori Steere of Conway came to Alton Weagle Day wearing a 10-foot tall dreamcatcher, saying it was “representative of all the imagination that goes into today.”
During a pre-ascent ceremony, Steere’s boyfriend, Hans Bauer, who carried a 40-foot tall international flagpole, reminded the 19 Weaglers that Ben-Hvar was “one of us” and was a person who could be readily identified with Weagle.
With help from volunteers, Bauer sounded three antique horns, wishing, “May they echo in the mountains forever.”