Monday, October 10, 2016

19th annual Forest Fest brings fun and oddities

Birling competitors balance precariously on the log in Ballaine Lake.
See the Forest Fest video developed by Jeff Fay.

The 19th annual Farthest North Forest Sports Fest on Saturday attracted its usual blend of fun and oddities, including a team sporting “Make Forestry Great Again” caps.

Team member Adrian Baer confirmed, “It’s all about making forestry great again.”

Baer, who lives in Palmer, has competed five or six times and talked two friends from Palmer and his brother, Zach, into joining him this year. Adrian Baer graduated from UAF in 2011 with a geography degree and Zach Baer graduated five years earlier with natural resources management and biology degrees.

2016 Bull of the Words Nelson Crone
Forest Fest competitors included students, alumni, staff, soldiers and other community members who all came out on a crisp fall morning (25 degrees) to try their hand at old-time forest skills, such as the bow saw, double bucksaw, pulp toss, axe throw, log rolling, fire starting and birling (walking on logs).

Many were trying the competition for the first time, but others, including retiree Pete Buist, have competed nearly every year. Buist competed on a woodsman’s team from State University of New York.

“I used to do it at college and it’s still fun, especially when I can beat people a third of my age,” he said.

It’s no idle boast. Buist placed third overall among male competitors and his Old Growth Team, which included his son, Jason, placed third overall. The first-place overall team was Adequately Hardwoods.

Nelson Crone, a GIS analyst from Anchorage and a member of Adequately Hardwoods, placed first among males overall, earning him the title of “Bull of the Woods.” Crone graduated from UAF with natural resources management and geology degrees in 2009 and has competed multiple times. The “Belle of the Woods” was Ruby Baxter, another repeat competitor who placed first in axe throw, bow saw, log rolling and birling.

Tanja Schollmeier , who is working a doctorate in marine biology, competed for her second time as a member of the Burly Beavers.

“We just did it for fun,” she said.

Adraian Baer, a member of the Make
 Forestry Great Again team.
Victoria Smith, an academic advisor at UAF, placed second among the women. She grew up in a small logging town in Washington state, but she never competed in forest sports until she lived in Fairbanks.

“I love the camaraderie of it,” she said.

Teammates cheered as their teammates competed.
“Bring it home,” one competitor advised, as his  teammate attempted to heft a four-foot section of log between metal uprights in the “pulp toss.”

Matthew Balazs, who competed with the Burly Beavers, was pleased to win second place in the fire-building competition with team member Marc Oggier. They placed first last year.

“We wanted to prove it wasn’t a fluke,” he said. Balazs, who is completing his doctorate in geology, attributed his success to “strong lungs.”

Competitors start with logs, which they chop down for shavings and kindling. Competitors must blow vigorously on the fire to get the fire going and boil water in a pot.

The Forest Fest is sponsored by the School of Natural Resources and Extension and the student group, Resource Management Society.

The winners are:

Jason Buist, left, and Pete Buist fan the flames.
Top Team: Adequately Hardwoods, with Adam Kuegle, Jon Hutchison, Bob Torgerson, Nelson Crone, Brooks Lawler, Stephen McKee Amanda Myhand and Victoria Smith

Top female overall winners
1. Ruby Baxter
2. Victoria Smith
3. Cynthia Nelson

Top male finisher
1. Nelson Crone
2. Adam Kuegle
3. Pete Buist

Axe throw women: Ruby Baxter
Axe throw men: Matthew Balazs

Double bucksaw women: Trisha Levasseur and Michaela Pye
Double bucksaw men: Jason and Pete Buist
Jack and Jill: Nelson Crone and Victoria Smith

Nelson Crone and Victoria Smith compete on the double bucksaw.
Bow saw women: Ruby Baxter
Bow saw men: Pete Buist

Log rolling women: Ashley Straoch and Ruby Baxter
Log rolling men: Paul Klech and Jason Buist
Log rolling Jack and Jill: Yancey and Yancey (no first names)

Pulp toss: Adam Kuegle, Nelson Crone,  Bob Torgerson and Victoria Smith

Birling women: Ruby Baxter
Birling men: Zachary Baer

Fire building: Adam Kuegle and Nelson Crone

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