Grind that ax to get ready for Lumberjack contest

Special to the Union Leader
September 26. 2012 2:18AM
Rain didn’t deter Laurette Russell of New Gloucester, Maine, in competing in last year’s women’s ax throw competition. (SARA YOUNG-KNOX)
BERLIN - The 13th annual Lumberjack Competition and Festival in Berlin begins at 10 a.m. on Sunday at Northern Forest Heritage Park's recreation logging camp. Set on the banks of the Androscoggin River, the park seems to have found a winning combination: food, fun and lots of good, clean competitions.

The Lumberjack competition brings together over 60 Lumber Jacks and Lumber Jills from the U.S. and Canada. The championship events include competitions for both men and women, with axe throws, standing block chops, two-person crosscut and more. Huot said there will be three stations for each event, so there will be plenty of action.

'We've got some new faces,' park director Dick Huot of Tri-County CAP said Tuesday.

The Lumberjack event has expanded to include animals from the Roy Family Farm and children's activities, with the ever-popular burling (log rolling) contest drawing the most agile youngsters. Kids can practice keeping their balance on the rotating log at 2 p.m. The burling competition starts at 2:45 p.m. Note to parents of burling participants: be sure to bring a change of clothes.

River boat tours will be discounted from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The logging camp at 961 Main Street opens at 6 a.m. for the Lumberjack Style Breakfast, which is served until 9:30 a.m. The opening ceremony is at 11:30 a.m. and the awards ceremony is at 5 p.m. In between, there will be plenty of good food available. Admission is $7 for adults, with children 12 and under free when accompanied by an adult.

Last year, competitors braved the rain, taking the dampness in stride. After all, years ago when cross-cut saws and sharp axes were the main tools of the trade, do you think they let a little rain keep them indoors? Those vintage tools are on display in the filer's shack at the camp, along with a sign that says, 'Do not spit on the floor,' in five languages. Those languages reflect the heritages of the men who worked in the northern New Hampshire camps, the heritages that the park honors and remembers.

The park's become the place to hold indoor/outdoor community celebrations in Berlin. This year, the Berlin High School brought its homecoming parade, ending the evening with a bonfire in the amphitheater the site, which Huot said was 'unbelievable.'

'So many people,' he said, 'came and hung around.' The park had hamburgers, hot dogs and fried dough on the grill, and the high school's classes and band sold snacks. 'It was really something to see.'

'It's really become a community park,' he said, adding that Tri-County CAP took over the park and the Brown Company House around 2008, when the trustees of the non-profit that founded it ran out of money. Huot said CAP opened the logging camp up for private functions in 2009, and hosted 113 functions and events in 2011.

The buildings of the logging camp were opened to the public in 2002. The amphitheater predates the log buildings.

In late October the park will be taken over by the ghoulish, ghostly and ghastly, as Theatre North once again lets their undead out of their caskets and attics for a day/night of spooky fun.

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Sara Young-Knox may be reached at


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