Monday, October 12, 2015

18th Forest Fest draws a spirited crowd

Victoria Smith earned the title of Belle of the Woods and, for the second year, Jason Buist was named Bull of the Woods.

More than 100 people turned out on a crisp Saturday morning to watch or to test their lumberjack skills at the 18th annual Farthest North Forest Festival.

Community members and UAF staff and students competed, including eight members of the UAF women’s basketball team.

Matthew Balacz, a geology graduate student who was competing for his fifth time, says he loves the competition, which took place in the field across from Georgeson Botanical Garden and at Ballaine Lake.

Zach Gordon, left, and Jon Hutchinson begin birling.
“We have a great time out here,” he said. “It’s the best day of the year.”

Balazs and his partner, Marc Oggier, won first place in the fire-starting competition, barely besting the father-son duo from the “Old Growth” team, Pete and Jason Buist. Teams must chop two large pieces of firewood into shavings and smaller pieces and then coax a pot of water to boil. Balazs and Oggier clocked in at 10 minutes and 10 seconds.

Jason Buist, however, prevailed as the top male competitor for the second year. The Fort Wainwright firefighter was named “Bull of the Woods” and Victoria Smith, an academic advisor at UAF, earned the title of “Belle of the Woods” as the top female finisher. Smith grew up in a logging town near Chehalis, Wash., which could have given her an edge.

The spirit was fun and newcomers were invited to try new events, such as tossing an axe at a target, wielding a bow saw and wrangling logs. Competition became fierce at times, especially fire starting in the Ballaine Lake parking lot. On most teams, one person tended the fire and the other person blew on the fire to encourage the flames.

“Do I have my eyebrows still?  Coleman Smith asked, after he leaned in a little too close to blow on the fire.

Smith, a junior studying petroleum engineering at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, also really enjoyed the day.  “I think it’s pretty cool,” he said.  “There’s a lot of places in the world where this would have never happened.”

Birling requires two competitors to balance on a log and remain standing the longest as the log rolls. Since Ballaine Lake was frozen, about a quarter inch of ice had to be broken up around the spruce log before the competition began. Most of the competitors only dipped a little in the lake but some went in the water completely, requiring a change of clothes and some time by the warming fire.

The event is sponsored by the School of Natural Resources and Extension and the student group, Resource Management Society. 
Two competitors exert themselves on the double bucksaw.

And the winners are:

Top team: Old Growth team with Jason and Pete Buist, Alice Orlich, Paul Keech, Jennifer Yuhas and Kevin Meany.

Top female overall winners:
1. Victoria Smith
2. Genevieve Johnson
3. Alice Orlich

Top male finisher
1. Jason Buist
2. Pete Buist
3. Mark Oggier

Axe throw women: Genevieve Johnson
Axe throw men: Zach Gordan and Nelson Crone

Double bucksaw women:  Becky and Jen
Double bucksaw men: Jason Buist and Pete Buist
Jack and Jill: Victoria Smith and Nelson Crone

Bow saw women: Catherine Estus
Bow saw men: Jason Buist

Log rolling women: Jordan Wilson and Kaille Skjold
Log rolling men: Paul Keech and Jason Buist
Log rolling Jack and Jill: Katie Ott and Marc Oggier

Pulp toss: Jason Buist, Pete Buist and Paul Keech

Birling women: Alice Orlich
Birling men: Zach Gordan

Firebuilding: Matthew Balazs and Marc Oggier

Coleman Smith, left, and Josh McNeal operate the double bucksaw.

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