Festival attracts ‘lumberjack’ athletes
Woodsmen, lumberjacks, loggers, students, staff and alumni crawled out of the woodwork Saturday, Oct. 8 to compete in the 19th Annual Farthest North Forest Sports Festival. The event was free to participate in and was made possible by the UAF School of Natural Resources and Extension, the Resource Management Society and countless volunteers donating their time and efforts.
The competition kicked off at 10 a.m., parked cars lining the way to the sign-up table at the Fairbanks Experimental Farm Fields across from the Georgeson Botanical Garden.
“A faculty member [in 1998] thought it would be a cool idea to celebrate some of these old logging sports by holding an event of our own,” David Valentine said.
Valentine has been at every single event since its inception. He has worked for UAF for twenty years and currently serves as the director of academic programs for the school of natural resources and extension.
Advanced tools are standard for forest professionals today, but the festival pays tribute to a time in our history when traditional woodworking skills were essential for not only work but everyday living.
Events include the pulp throw, bow saw, fire building, log rolling, birling, jack and jill cross cut, axe throw and more.
“You can look at each event and trace that back to some skill that loggers would want to have,” Valentine said.
With the pulp throw, there are two stakes designating the area in which competitors must work in a team to individually toss 4-foot-long logs between stakes. Each time a log lands exactly between the stakes the group receives a point. Each team member must attempt to throw logs until they reach sixteen points. The event is timed and the team with the fastest recorded time wins. The idea behind the event is to emphasize the need to stack wood quickly and accurately.
The cutting events, both the individual bow saw and the team jack and jill crosscut are also timed events and emphasize the necessity of cutting wood both quickly and accurately.
A crowd favorite, the birling event takes place on Ballaine Lake. A full sized log is brought down into the water. This year they had to break through 2 inches of ice on Ballaine Lake and clear a sizeable space for the event to even take place.Two competitors stand on either side of the log and attempt to out balance their opponent while the log rolls in the water. Historically, big log rafts floated down rivers to get logs from the place they were cut to market or to mill. The ability to balance well on logs was a skill that was needed.
“Axe throwing… I don’t know if there’s real purpose to that,” Valentine said “other than [loggers] were probably sitting around at camp having contests of their own.”
Every year 2 overall winners are crowned as bull of the woods and bell of the woods. Additionally, there is a winning team and then the individual winners for each event.
The event happens every October on the first or second Saturday of the month.