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Nearly $30,000 Raised at Portland Fundraiser

PORTLAND, ME - Spring rain and technical challenges in the wake of the powerful Patriots Day Nor’easter could not keep Mount Washington Observatory from holding a very successful fundraising event on April 28. The event raised nearly $30,000, including over $11,000 to match a challenge grant to upgrade Weather Discovery Center museum exhibits.

Over 100 people flocked to “An Evening on Mount Washington” at the Portland Museum of Art, where the world’s worst weather met the elegance of one of Maine’s cultural treasures.

Hosted by former observers and Portland’s WGME TV-13 meteorologists Charlie Lopresti and Sarah Long, the benefit provided an opportunity for Observatory members, supporters and others to celebrate the unique non-profit organization and its weather station atop the summit of Mount Washington. Attendees enjoyed hors d’oevres, live jazz music and a silent auction filled with outdoor gear, travel packages, fine art and more.

Portland Mayor Nick Mavodones opened the event by giving an official welcome and presenting Observatory President Ken Jones and Executive Director Scot Henley each with a commemorative gift from the City of Portland. However, the big draw was a live video-connection with the summit of Mount Washington. With Charlie Lopresti broadcasting live from the summit and Sarah Long at the event, the interaction between the two hosts was very entertaining. They recounted a number of stories of their years of working together on the summit, generating a lot of laughs.

Conditions on the summit were relatively tame on that April evening, but the major spring storm that hammered New England caused a number of technical problems in the days leading up to the Portland event. The video link used in the event’s program rides over a microwave connection between the summit and the Observatory’s Weather Discovery Center in North Conway, NH. The equipment took a hit during the Nor’easter, knocking the summit offline intermittently for a couple of weeks. The link was re-established in preparation for the Portland event, and seemed to be working well. However, with just hours before the event began, the link went down.

Observers Jim Salge, Ryan Knapp and intern Brent Antkowiak immediately went to work to install a back-up dish in extremely wet, dreary conditions. With the help of I.T. Coordinator Mike Davidson in North Conway, the crew re-established the link just in time for the event, much to the delight of the entire staff.

“It was a great night at the Portland Museum of Art,” says Scot Henley, Executive Director of the Observatory, “especially knowing what went on behind the scenes to make it happen.”

Live video connections and television meteorologists are not the only links between the summit of Mount Washington and the seaside of Portland. Southern Maine’s relationship with the mountain has existed since early settlers sailed into Casco Bay, looking to the “White Hills” of the western horizon. Not only admired from afar, the first ascent of Mount Washington originated in Maine and was achieved by a Mainer, Darby Field, in 1642.

“The relationship between Mount Washington and southern Maine is more established than many are aware of,” says Scot Henley. “Hosting this event in downtown Portland provided a chance to keep this connection strong while building awareness of what we do here at the Observatory.”

An Evening on Mount Washington was made possible by its valued event sponsors. The benefit was presented by Paradigm Windows, with additional support from Time Warner Cable, MEMIC, Woodard & Curran, WGME-TV 13, Dwell Creative and the Portland Phoenix.

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