Voices


Find saws, chops, skill, speed at LoggingFest

SATURDAY, SEPT. 16, 2006

And you thought “sawing logs” was a euphemism for a good night’s sleep.

When Valleyfest takes over Mirabeau Meadows Park next Saturday, “sawing logs” will take on a whole new, competitive meaning.

Valleyfest 2006 is adding its own sporting competition: LoggingFest.

“We wanted to add some kind of sports competition and this one seemed ideal,” organizer Peggy Doering said.

The competition will pit lumberjacks and lumberjills against one another in competition with axes, crosscut saws and chain saws – with $7,000 in prize money on the line.

Events will include both single and double hand bucking, springboard chop, underhand chop, standing block chop, hot saw, ax throwing, choker setting and birling – log rolling for those who haven’t become aficionados of ESPN’s Great Outdoor Games.

And for those who are fans of the cable sports outdoor competition, Spokane’s own Erin Lavoie will appear to help explain the sports and show off her chopping and sawing skills.

Lavoie is a former bronze medalist in the Great Outdoor Games who has been a member of the U.S. Women’s National Team and has toured both China and Australia demonstrating her sport.

Logging competitions are a glimpse into the way timber was harvested in the days before high-tech logging operations were born. Some of these events are only used in competitions. They’re a chance to celebrate the skills necessary to survive as an lumberjack.

Here is a brief explanation of some of the varied competitions:

In the springboard chop, competitors cut a pair of notches in a nine-foot pole, insert springboards into the notches and climb to the top of the pole. Once there, they cut halfway through a block of wood. They then climb down and do the same thing from the opposite side and repeat the process to complete the cut.

In the underhand chop, competitors stand on a 12- to 14-inch block and chop their way through from both sides. The event takes balance as well as skill with an ax. The standing block chop is the same thing with an upright block.

Hot saw competition uses a customized chainsaw to make three cuts through the end of a log – two cuts down and one upward cut.

Hand bucking uses an old-fashioned crosscut saw – something oldtime lumberjacks used to call “a misery whip.” Single buck competition features one person sawing their way through a log. Competitors can use a helper to help wedge the log and to help lubricate the saw. Double buck competition features two-person saws.

Choker setting is a speed event. Contestants unhook a choker from one log, run to and hook up to a second log and race back.

Birling may be the signature event of this type of competition. Contestants stand on a log floating in a pond. Each attempts to control the speed and direction in which the log spins in the water. Last one standing wins.

“The same people who are putting on the lumberjack demonstrations at the (Spokane County Interstate) Fair will be helping us put this event on,” Doering said. “The pond they’re using at the fair is the one that they’ll bring out for the log-rolling. We’re not digging a pond – no.”

One event that will not be held is the pole climb – an event that shows off a lumberjack’s agility in climbing trees.

“It was just cost-prohibitive to bring in those poles,” Doering said. “We got permission to do it, but finding those poles is very expensive. They only grow in deep canyons where they don’t get a lot of light and the trees have to grow straight up to get to the sunlight. They’re hard to find and hard to get to.”

All of the lumber being chopped, sawed and rolled during the competition, provided by Shawn Montee Timber, will be recycled, Doering said.

Parking for the event may be limited, Doering said. However, Spokane Transit will run shuttle buses from the Spokane Valley Mall all day long.


 

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