Monday, October 8, 2018

Forest Fest brings competitors out of the woodwork

Birling competitors face off in Ballaine Lake.

Experienced and newbie lumberjacks turned out Saturday for one of the warmest Farthest North Forest Sports Festivals on record — with no snow on the ground and a mostly ice-free Ballaine Lake.

The morning competition started in the farm fields across from the Georgeson Botanical Garden with the axe-throwing, sawing, log rolling and pulp toss events. Activities shifted to Ballaine Lake around lunchtime for fire building and birling, which requires balancing on a plastic log floating in Ballaine Lake.
Belle of the Woods Ida Petersen and Bull of the Woods
Vic Anderson pose with their certificates.

The event draws competitors who come year after year and novices, including university students and alumni, curious community members and their friends.

Larsen Hess, a 2009 natural resources management graduate, showed up with his own double-bitted axe in a leather case and his wife, Arisa Sasaki.

“ I love it,” he said. “I grew up with loggers.”

His family has been logging in Oregon for four or five generations, he said. Larsen, an electrician, earned the “Bull of the Woods” title 10 years ago, while competing with his father. He proudly showed off his hand-forged axe, which was made in Sweden.

Anika Pinzner, a UAF graduate student from Germany who is studying snow pollution, appeared to be having a great time. She especially liked throwing axes. “This is the most Alaskan thing I’ve ever done,” she said.

This year’s top male and female competitors, the Bull of the Woods and Belle of the Woods, are relative newcomers to the event. Vic Anderson, who surveys forests for the state and U.S. Forest Service, was competing for the first time and this is the second competition for Ida Petersen, an environmental engineer at Fort Wainwright.

Anderson said while he has never competed, he does like spending time outdoors. The duo also competed on the winning team, the “Beleaguered Beavers,” along with teammates Victoria Smith and Jon Hutchinson, who both placed second overall.

Anika Pinzner lobs an axe at a target.
Most of the other team names reflect a woodsman theme, such as Old Growth, Dirty Woodspeople and Morning Wood. Old Growth was composed of mature competitors, including longtime competitors Pete Buist, his son Jason, Alice Orlich, and Pete Buist’s neighbors, Mark and Sheryl DeBoard, who were recruited to round out the team.

The fire-building event starts with a big chunk of log, which must be split and chopped into kindling and smaller pieces to start a fire. It has to get hot enough to boil water in a tin can. Competing in the Jack and Jill fire-building  event, Victoria Smith leaned in a little too close to the fire at one point to blow on it. “I didn’t need my eyebrows anyway,” she joked.

The event relies on volunteer help from former students, and current and former staff and faculty of the School of the Natural Resources and Extension and the student Resource Management Society. Chief organizer Dave Valentine thanks sponsors Northland Wood for their donation of lumber used in the competition and Fairbanks Stump Grinders for volunteering during the event.

Forest Fest winners include:

Belle of the Woods (overall female winner): Ida Petersen
Second: Victoria Smith
Third: Alice Orlich

Jon Hutchinson and Ida Petersen blow on their fire to get it going better.
Bull of the Woods (overall male winner): Vic Anderson
Second: Jon Hutchinson
Third: Pete Buist

Team Winner: Beleaguered Beavers with Vic Anderson, Ida Petersen, Victoria Smith and Jon Hutchinson

Axe Throw (female):  Alice Orlich

Axe Throw (male): Jon Hutchinson

Birling (female):  Channing Bolt

Birling (male): Vic Anderson

Bow Saw (female):  Ida Petersen

Bow Saw (male):  Jason Buist

Double Buck Saw (female):  Ida Petersen and Victoria Smith

Double Buck Saw (male):  Jason Buist and Pete Buist

Double Buck Saw (Jack & Jill): Vic Anderson and Victoria Smith
The winningest team, the Beleaguered Beavers, displays their certificates.
From left, are Vic Anderson, Victoria Smith, Jon Hutchinson and Ida Petersen.

Fire Building (two-person team): Jon Hutchinson and Ida Petersen

Pulp Toss: Old Growth, including Jason Buist, Pete Buist, Mark DeBoard, Alice Orlich, Michelle Boutin, Sheryl DeBoard and Barbara Michael

Log rolling (female):  Victoria Smith and Ida Petersen

Log rolling (male): Todd Vorlselt and Craig Brennan

Log rolling (Jack & Jill): Victoria Smith and Vic Anderson

Moving logs with a peavy proves challenging.

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