The Dixville Notch Tradition
One of the things organizations and families do is carry on traditions. Individuals have them too.
One of my quirky ones — every four years in January and again in November — is watching the voters of Dixville Notch, N.H., cast what are billed “First in the Nation” presidential ballots. They do this at the stroke of midnight at the Balsams Grand Resort Hotel. (Another little place in New Hampshire, Hart’s Location, does the same thing, but Dixville Notch was first in 1960 and thus the tradition is tied more to them.)
Once all registered voters have cast their ballots, the polls are closed, the results tabulated and the count announced to the world. At least to the segment of the world that is awake and gives a hoot.
I do. I’m not sure why, but I do.
My wife LOL’ed me yesterday when I announced that I was staying up past midnight to watch Dixville Notch.
“Dixville what?” she kidded me.
When I asked my college-student daughter if she wanted to stay up to watch, I got the expected, “Yeah, right. G’night, Dad.”
In the past, I’ve watched the “action” unfold on C-SPAN. They used to have cameras there before midnight and you’d see the folks milling around and chatting. It was like a quaint little party. Last night as the midnight hour approached, C-SPAN was airing taped footage of candidates’ activities from earlier in the day. I was afraid I’d miss out, but I found CNN live on location at midnight and I followed through on my tradition.
There were only nine voters last night. I seem to remember there normally would be somewhere just shy of 20. I read it had something to do with the hotel changing hands and being closed for renovations (except that the new owners opened the place up for a night to allow the tradition to continue).
The face of the Dixville Notch proceedings, if there is one, is Tom Tillotson (pictured). I remember his face and his name. He’s there every four years. He is a friend that I do not know.
I don’t have a bucket list. But if I ever start one, going to Dixville Notch — tucked in northeast New Hampshire near Maine and Quebec — for the New Hampshire primary or on Election Day eve is something I’d consider.
The results last night: three Democratic votes for President Obama and, on the GOP side, two each for Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman and one each for Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.
Worth staying up for? Yup.
Tom McBride is the Gazette’s assistant features editor.