Lumberjacks more than OK at Murray County Fair
SLAYTON -- Lumberjacks may traditionally bring to mind an image of men with short hair, big full beards, flannel clothing and -- possibly -- a blue ox.
Well, Paul Bunyan was not in town for Thursday's All American Lumberjack Show at the Murray County Fair, but Tyler Berard and Jesse Anderson, two modern-era lumberjacks, were.
Berard and Jesse Anderson are regular participants in the show, which travels throughout the U.S., and engaged fair attendees with demonstrations. Going through an obstacle course, sawing off logs and getting wet is all part of being a lumberjack for these two men, who have each been doing such activities for around 12 years.
Berard, who attends the University of Wisconsin-Stout, said he declared himself a professional lumberjack when he was just 16. Anderson, from Stillwater, is a full-time college student who does lumberjack shows in the summer in following the footsteps of his grandfather, who was a 12-time world champion back in his day.
"There are really two types of lumberjacks," Anderson said. "The people who actually do stuff in the woods, and then people who compete and do shows like this. And they very rarely cross over.
"A lot of the guys on TV are from Australia or New Zealand, and that is what they do -- that is their profession. Me and him (Berard) are college students, and this is what we do in the summer and it's a good job."
There were five events that Berard and Anderson participated in Thursday afternoon.
The first was an obstacle course-type race in which competitors had to start their chainsaws and then run up a thick log at an angle. They then had to cut a piece of the log off, half from the left and half from the right. Next, they were required to run back down the log at an angle and touch the end to finish -- and Anderson was victorious.
The second event was the springboard race, during which lumberjacks put springboards into a standing piece of wood to reach the top. They then cut a piece of wood off the top -- again, half from the left and half from the right to meet in the middle. Anderson won again, as he was aided by a stalled chainsaw on Berard's end.
During axe throwing. Berard and Anderson heaved a sharpened axe 20 feet into a cottonwood tree stump. They had three throws to obtain as many points as possible, and Berard emerged as the winner. A hot saw race had the duo make three cuts of wood in any way they chose; Anderson prevailed after Berard's saw got stuck in the log.
The two men did boom running for the finale, running across floating logs one way, then around a piece of wood on a platform before sprinting back. They each ran three times, and in the end Berard took home the win. It seemed only fitting he came out on top, as he had placed fifth in the world championships in the event earlier this summer in Hayward, Wis.
One additional highlight of the show was two lucky audience members getting in on the action by throwing an axe. For Linda Strampa, 57, of Chandler, SD, it was a great moment.
"It was hard to lift the axe at first," she said. "But when I arched my back, I threw a bulls eye and the crowd went wild and it felt great."