NH Business: Going over the edge

·4 min read

Jul. 3—AS ONE OF the first rappelers sat perched atop Brady Sullivan Plaza, he idled just long enough for the crowd to wonder whether he was going to make the descent.

"Did he chicken out?" a bystander asked.

The guy stuck up there, like a gargoyle facing the wrong direction, was long past being able to change his mind. The only way out was down. He knew that. He just couldn't figure out how to work the controls.

After several tries, he finally engaged the lever, let out some slack in the line and took his first backward leap into nothing. He touched down a few feet below, his sneakers making contact with one of the windows of the 24-story tower.

It was a movement he would repeat many times, until the ground below no longer looked like a distant destination.

Along the way, he enjoyed spectacular views facing west.

The Millyard.

The Merrimack River.

The majestic steeple of Saint Marie Catholic Church.

The GoPro camera recorded everything he saw as well as his occasional shouts to the crowd. A photographer inside the building shooting through a window captured him smiling. Evidence that terror can make room for joy.

Seventy-five people made a similar journey Tuesday morning as part of Over the Edge, a fundraiser sponsored by the United Way of Greater Nashua and Granite United Way.

The participants had to raise at least $1,000 to earn a harness and $500 more to score a GoPro camera to record their trip. They were grouped in teams of three, representing one of 24 local nonprofits.

As of Friday, the event had raised nearly $142,000 from nearly 1,500 individual donors — far surpassing the original goal of $125,000.

Union Leader reporter Paul Feely and I were among the first to make the trip, part of a VIP group that also included former U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, Randy Pierce of Future in Sight, Nick Garber of Bar Harbor Bank & Trust and Ashley Sullivan of Brady Sullivan.

Ayotte, Pierce and Sullivan were repeat "edgers," and helped assure the first-timers among us that we would do fine.

On the roof, with 360 degrees views of the Queen City to warm us up for the ride, we took turns practicing how to position ourselves for the descent with a trainer from Over the Edge, the Nova Scotia-based company that manages these events. Then we stood in line to wait our turn.

Pierce, who already had stepped up to the challenge three times previously despite being blind, was one of the first to go. I reminded him that he was my inspiration.

"I'm proud of you, Mike," Pierce said before he dropped off the side of the skyscraper and disappeared from view.

It was the kind of encouragement I needed when my turn came next. I experienced a moment of panic as three Over the Edge team members connected the lines to my harness and did a final safety check.

Even as I fumbled a few times to get my line to slacken and make that first leap, I knew I was in safe hands. The only variable was me. I had put my faith in this team, and now I had to do the same with myself.

I made my way down fairly quickly — in about 4 minutes — but never moving fast enough to engage the brake, a safety feature that keeps rappelers from losing control. I did gather enough speed for the rope to feel hot against my glove.

When I reached the ground, my fan base included my wife, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law, and my younger brother — the guy who had jokingly questioned whether I had chickened out when he saw me stalled at the top of the building.

Wind beneath the pops

During a small gathering Tuesday morning before our climb, Brady Sullivan Plaza co-owner Arthur Sullivan and I talked about the giant lollipop sculptures that were displayed in the courtyard when the building opened as Hampshire Plaza in 1972.

The long-gone sculptures, named "Fantasy," were designed by Boston artist Robert Amory, according to a 1974 newspaper article. Red plastic discs sat atop 14-foot poles and would rotate with the wind.

Sullivan said he has been unable to locate the originals but would like to replace them.

It would be great to see those suckers spinning around down below during the next Over the Edge — as long as the wind doesn't whip us around, too.

To donate to this year's Over the Edge, visit https://app.mobilecause.com/vf/edge2022/MikeCote or text edge202288 to 71777.

Mike Cote is senior editor for news and business. Contact him at mcote@unionleader.com or (603) 206-7724.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not represent the views and opinions of the sponsor, its members and affiliates.