My summers were spent here at the Pavilion as if it were my backyard.
I see the crowd lined up at the door, decorated in Paramore and Foster the People t-shirts, just like my own. The faces from my middle school and high school are joining me in this homecoming.
Now I’m here with my university, and it feels like bringing home your college boyfriend to meet your parents.
SNHU went to summer camp this year, taking up residence at The Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion in Gilford, NH on June 20. A whole crew of students came too, with specialties ranging from architecture to social media and even rock n’ roll, all in the name of real-world education.
The Pavilion is a music venue tucked away in the middle of the ever-popular tourist spot of the Lakes Region. Growing up here, it’s hard to imagine being without it, but its beginnings were muddy. Literally.
Twenty-three seasons ago, RJ Harding and his father purchased the property for their hotel business. It was just a field acquired to protect their nearby hotel. They weren’t using the space, and a local radio DJ, Bob Adams, approached the pair.
Previously, Adams had been putting on a yearly, free show at the local landmark arcade, Funspot. He was displaced from Funspot and needed a new location, the rest is history.
“It was a bit of an accident,” said Harding, now president and purveyor of the Pavilion.
Now the venue is consistently ranked the best in New Hampshire and among the best in the United States. Recently, the venue has been scooped up by Live Nation, a giant in the live entertainment business. Remarkably though, the Pavilion hasn’t lost its local flair.
“We don’t want people just walking out of here, after seeing their favorite artist saying ‘Oh he was, she was awesome.’ We want them saying, ‘That place was awesome,’” said Mike Seymour, chief operating officer and financial officer.
It’s a homegrown underdog, kind of like SNHU, making it the perfect place for the university to set up shop.
Entering the amphitheater, not only was I greeted by those I grew up with, but also my classmates. I notice the video advertisement for SNHU above my head, showing the different student experiences.
Samantha Aguilar-Hernandez, a second year student at SNHU, worked in a team of undergrads who produced this video.
“The thought of this video being projected and seen by thousands of people including bands like Paramore and Thirty Seconds to Mars is exciting, it really takes my breath away just thinking about it,” said Aguilar-Hernandez.
Outside the amphitheater, the grounds have always been full of vendors, games and other stands. SNHU students are littered around the campus, showing off their talents.
The Magic Hat Stage is a signature element to the Pavilion’s local atmosphere. The Pavilion offers this stage to support New Hampshire artists. One is always sure to find someone they know at least once a season.
The SNHU Rock Band (formerly known as Patrick and the Swayzes, this time under the name Space Force) could be found at this stage, drawing a decent crowd.
“Last year we played for Avenged Sevenfold, this year we get to play for Paramore, so it’s pretty awesome… they treat you like a king here at the Pavillion,” said lead guitarist Tony Coughlin (‘19).
“This is a class, technically. We do get credit for it…” said vocalist Patrick Ducharme (‘19).
The sound of bass guitar and drums could be heard from the other side of the grounds at the SNHU tent. Under the tent, the game designers were handing controllers to the crowd.
“It really pushes you to work harder on your games when you have a big crowd to show it off to. It kind of gives you the motivation that you need to make something really fun,” said Brian Conant, a senior game design student.
It was hard not to appreciate the students living the dreams they had when they were kids. Now they were inspiring a new generation to make games.
Also under the tent was a nine-year veteran of the Pavilion. Steve Pouliot stood with his big camera around his neck and a backpack full of gear, mingling with the SNHU On-Campus social media team.
In the 80’s, Pouliot cut his teeth on a film camera, but the high school hobby fizzled out. Later, when digital came around, Pouliot was sucked back in. Now he gets to spend his summer nights taking pictures of rock stars, a teenage dream that I was living, too.
“I’m shooting Slash, and I’m looking through the camera like ‘This guy’s an effing icon. This is cool.’ I generally don’t have that moment until after I get home, and I’m looking at pictures, and I’m editing and thinking ‘wow this is really good, this is really cool’,” said Pouliot.
For the rest of the night, it seemed like Steve was everywhere, be it showing the social media team how to get a good shot or mingling with the guests. These were his people.
And it was later that it was clear that Steve, and the rest of Bank of New Hampshire Pavilion, had made SNHU their people too. With photo pass in hand, I stood behind the barricade that others were all but trying to climb over. I saw my idols, Paramore, up on stage, and I was living a dream too.
“Shoot. Shoot a lot. Shoot everything. Shoot local bands. Don’t worry about getting paid,” said Pouliot. “Go get good at what you do. Then you can worry about charging people for it later.”