Firefighters take 'We Love Portsmouth' photograph

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PORTSMOUTH — Roberta Stevens was relieved to see the “We Love Portsmouth” human heart photograph finally come together Sunday afternoon.

The Portsmouth 375th Steering Committee had originally planned the picture at a soup-and-salad fund-raiser on Feb. 17, but a snowstorm forced the group to cancel the event.

“I made 80 bowls of soup and I’ve been eating leftovers ever since,” joked Ms. Stevens, a committee member.

Not to worry, as members of the group finally got the picture they wanted during their Earth Day Kite Fly Event Sunday at Glen Park. The event was attended by many local residents — and some not so local. Ms. Stevens said members from a group home from Scituate traveled to Portsmouth just for the event.

“They read about it in the paper and they came out,” she said.

Doug Smith, chairman of the steering committee, gathered as many people as he could for the photograph. “Here’s your chance to be part of the heart,” he said through a megaphone. “Be part of Portsmouth history.”

Lt. Norman E. Moore and firefighter Tim Gumkowski brought the Fire Department's ladder truck in order to get a high-enough vantage point.

Town historian and photographer Jim Garman was planning on taking the picture himself, but later learned that he couldn't get into the ladder bucket due to the department's rules on liability. So, Lt. Moore borrowed Mr. Garman's camera and clicked away himself.

Immediately after the photo was taken, an alarm came in for the two firefighters. “I gotta a go; I have a fire,” said Lt. Moore before the truck speeded away.

Rich Talipsky, a member of the steering committee, said the group would like to sell prints of the photograph as part of its fund-raising efforts.

The Earth Day event also featured an appearance by Elaine Collado, Miss Teen Rhode Island, who signed autographs; and performances by the Navy Band Northeast-Top Brass Quintet and storyteller and musician Lindsay Adler, who presented a program of music and environmental stories for young children as "Mother Earth."

There was also a free bounce house, free soil testing and sales featuring numerous garden items, and more.

The big attraction, however, was the kite-flying demonstration by international kite maker and designer Tom Casselman, founder of the Black Ships Kite Festival. The park was filled with families and young children, many of whom brought their own colorful kites to fly,

“It makes me feel good that little kids are down there with their little kites and their families, and then up here are the (kite) masters," said Ms. Stevens.

For more about the Portsmouth 375th celebrations, visit www.portsmouthri375.com.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.