ST. MARIES – Booming over the microphone, Brad Benson did his best to entice audience members into the waters of the community pool for a variety of competitions on Saturday.
“It don’t cost anything to enter, it’s a heck of a lot of fun, and you can win money,” Benson said. “This race we only have two entries. Come on now.”
The first events of the Paul Bunyan Days celebration in this small town along the St. Joe River got off to a tepid start, but by mid-afternoon Benson had exhorted a dozen contestants into tightrope walking, canoe jousting and a two-person raft race.
Emilio Lopez, a construction worker from Clarkston, instructed 14-year-old Jordan Parks on the finer points of walking on a rope through the pool.
“Getting in and out of the pool is the hardest part,” Lopez said.
While some contestants floundered in the water, Parks quickly learned the trick, racing across the pool in under a minute.
“It’s the shoes,” said Parks, one of the few contestants to enter the water in sandals. “Then you just have to stay on the rope.”
Parks won $20 and finished a close second to his 16-year-old sister, Mirinda.
Meanwhile, Benson extolled the virtues of the raft races and canoe jousting.
“In case you missed it, it doesn’t cost anything to enter, and you can win money,” he said. “Guarantee you’ve never seen anything like this, and you’ll never see it again.”
Paul Bunyan Days began in 1968, and the event typically brings an influx of visitors to the logging town of 2,500. Organizers said they expect up to 15,000 people to attend today’s fireworks display.
Dale Hill, chairman of Paul Bunyan Days Inc., a non-profit, allowed that some of the events weren’t strictly logging activities but said the first two days of the event are devoted to family fun.
“On Monday, we have the power-saw competition, cross-cutting and ax-throwing,” Hill said.
Winners earn the annual titles of top Logger and Loggerette.