The 22nd annual North Country Moose Festival roamed into its second day Saturday and continues through Sunday in several communities including Pittsburg, Stewartstown, Colebrook, Errol and across the Connecticut River in Canaan, Vt.
The family-friendly event pushes tourism in the north country and gives a tip of the antler to the iconic ungulate. Tourism is the state's second largest industry and a recent study by the Institute for New Hampshire Studies at Plymouth State University estimates that the state saw 34.2 million visitors in 2012, a slight increase from 2011.
Don Kelsea knows how important visitors are. At his Pittsburg Trading Post on a sunny Saturday, visitors rode up on ATVs or in cars to buy gas, subs and pizza, chips, beer and all manner of moose-themed swag.
"It really does bring people in," said the 72-year-old Kelsea as his wife Carmela checked out customers. "There's no other employment up here to speak of. There's still a few people working in the woods but that's getting harder and harder.
"Every time you bring a dollar into this part of the country, it stays here," Kelsea said.
Scott Tessier is a local logger who passed through the trading post with family on ATVs. He compares the Moose Festival to another high-profile New Hampshire draw.
"It's just like biker season," he said, a nod to the state's popularity among motorcyclists and the annual Laconia Motorcycle Week.
Moose are a big part of the tourism so the annual festival takes advantage, offering moose sighting tours, a moose stew cook-off and moose burger contest.
The state's moose population stands at about 5,000.
The North Country Chamber of Commerce has a full listing of Moose Festival events on its website: www.northcountrychamber.org