Attempting to make Paul Bunyan proud

Published 7:54 pm Thursday, August 1, 2019

Great Lakes Timber Show demonstrates lumberjack skills


Short of felling trees on the Freeborn County Fairgrounds, the Great Lakes Timber Show worked to demonstrate old logging techniques that have morphed into competition events over the years.

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After a chainsaw demonstration that ended with eight hand-held miniature wooden chairs given out to children in the audience, Dale Bockrath, who performed in the show alongside Emily Saari, demonstrated axe throwing.

Axe throwing was never a competition, Saari said, but instead started as a game at logging camps.

“I’ve been in a bit of a slump the first two days,” Bockrath said, preparing to throw a double-bladed cruiser axe at a red, white and blue-painted target. Loggers would use the handle of the axe as a measuring stick, he said.

“Would anybody like to see some bullseyes?” he asked the crowd, who cheered.

The underhand block chop simulated how loggers would cut trees up when they were on the ground. The competition is a timed event, and the audience estimated it would take Bockrath anywhere between 5 seconds and one hour to chop all the way through the log while standing on top of it. He finished in 24 seconds.

A single buck timed event — one man sawing that relies more on technique in running the saw than strength, Bockrath said — left Saari and Bockrath quibbling over his head start.

“Ever see a man cheat and he’s the only one in the event?” Saari asked the audience.

Local Asa Johnson jumped in to make up the second half of a two-person team for a head-to-head, two-to-one competition. For the second bout, Bockrath pulled out a modified chainsaw and revved it like a classic car engine.

To replicate the process of getting logs to log mills, four volunteers offered to try the log-roll in a small pool.

Jax Allen, 10, and Spencer Brossard, 7, both volunteered to try the log-rolling.

“It was hot,” Allen said.

He wanted to get in the pool.

Likewise, Brossard said his favorite part of the show was when he fell into the water.

After the four volunteers, Saari did a demonstration of her own ability.

“How many people would like to see her stay dry?” Bockrath asked.


About Sarah Kocher

Sarah covers education and arts and culture for the Tribune.

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