The Romneys like to gather here around the Fourth of July, when Wolfeboro has what one resident called a “bang-up parade,” complete with a “lawn chair brigade” that performs routines tossing folding chairs in the air. Mitt Romney and his family plan to march in Wednesday’s parade, likely his only campaign event during his first full week of vacation since last summer.
“It’s the week that most of us look forward to more than any other week of the year,” Tagg Romney said. He added that his father “loves spending time with his grandkids. He reads them books, he takes them on boat rides, he takes them on bike rides and family walks.”
In Wolfeboro, dubbed “the oldest summer resort in America,” Romney’s neighbors said he and his family mostly keep to themselves. John Corf, who lives in a small home on an adjoining property, called Romney “a fine neighbor,” but added, “I’m not involved socially with them.” Corf said he has not seen Romney since last summer, when he bought Romney’s book, “No Apology,” and asked for his autograph. Romney walked over to Corf’s house to sign it.
Many residents here said they support Romney’s campaign but worry about the impact a win could have on this quaint hamlet of about 6,000. Again and again, shop owners along Main Street said they feared Wolfeboro turning into Kennebunkport, the seashore town where traffic and development boomed during George H. W. Bush’s presidency.
Many residents here are protective of Romney. Joe “Bucky” Melanson, who owns a jewelry store that the Romneys frequent, declined to detail what the candidate has purchased there. “That’s kind of personal stuff,” said Melanson, a Romney family friend.
The candidate who so often seems uptight appears to let loose here, as he zips across Lake Winnipesaukee on his speedboat filled with his young grandkids and pops into town for ice cream at Bailey’s Bubble (he’s a sucker for any flavor with peanut butter) or nails and plywood at Bradley’s Hardware.
“He walks in here in shorts and vacation clothes, with his grandchildren like little ducks following Papa Duck,” said Christin Kaiser, who has rung him up at Bradley’s.
Romney has been spotted at the grocery store, shopping with a list in one hand. And when he visits Main Street, he sometimes arrives by boat. Asked to describe the family, local retailer David Hemenway said: “All-American apple pie.”
Last winter in Iowa, Romney campaigned at a diner with his youngest son, Craig, who shared an anecdote from the Romney Olympics as an example of his father’s competitiveness.
Although Craig’s wife, Mary, had just given birth, she competed anyway in the triathlon.
“All the boys had finished at that point, and it was down to my wife and my dad,” Craig said.
“I tripped her!” Mitt quipped, joking.
“In the home stretch,” Craig recalled, “she had a slight lead on him and . . . he was going to win that race or he was going to die trying. And you see this fight to the finish. He went for this, he gave it everything he had, he gave it a good kick and he beat her in the end.”
Craig said his dad was so fatigued that “he passed out in the lawn chair, and we didn’t see him the rest of the day.”
“You know,” Mitt added, “there’s more to that. I changed the nature of the triathlon after that. I didn’t like this idea that these were only swimming, biking and running.”
Now, he said, “we have log-sawing, nail-hammering. We added some things I excel at so I don’t come in last every year.”