By Erin Place
OXFORD—Competitors are sharpening their axes, gassing up their chainsaws and dusting off their log-rolling boots for the Oxford County Fair’s 39th annual Woodmen’s Field Day competition set for Friday.
The competition kicks off at 9 a.m. at the 4×4 Arena at the Oxford County Fairgrounds, 68 Pottle Road, Oxford. Roughly 40 people will vie to be named champion in three classes with 16 different events as part of the competition. According to Elaine Emery, who co-runs the event, they hail from all over New England with a few contestants traveling from as far away as Pennsylvania and Canada. Mainers competing in the Woodmen’s Field Day include those from Peru, Winthrop and Whitefield.
“We have some of the best competitors in all of New England and from all over the state,” says David Billings, who co-runs the event with Emery and is a former competitor himself.
Emery adds that most of the competitors own their own logging, sawing or landscaping company or are involved in the wood business in some fashion. Many of them compete professionally and travel a woodmen’s circuit throughout New England, with Maine’s season running from mid-July through mid-October.
“It makes it kind of fun. It’s a good time of year for them,” she says. “It’s a sport that’s very different, but it’s a sport that’s a lot of fun to watch.”
While the Woodmen’s Field Day is fun for those competing, they also take it seriously.
“It’s become a very, very competitive sport,” Emery says. “These guys are really great guys. They’re very proud of their sport.”
The three classes include men’s, women’s and master’s, with the latter for those 55 and older. According to Emery, the champion for each class is named based on the most points collected from each event they enter, which ranges from one to five per event. Up for grabs is a $200 prize for each champion and smaller monetary prizes for those coming in first through fifth place in each event.
Rolling out the first event of the competition is the log roll. This is a two-person event and each piece of wood is 16 feet long, which has to be rolled between two sets of polls and is judged on how long the process takes, Emery says.
“If they miss the poles when they go back, they’re disqualified,” she says. “It’s a log that’s a different size on one end than the other. You can’t just roll the log straight because it won’t work.”
Next on the docket is the ax throw, where each competitor has five chances to throw an ax and hit the bull’s eye, Emery says. Then there’s the bucksaw event, where chalk lines are drawn on eight-by-eight foot timbers and competitors have to stay on the chalk lines, cutting out a “cookie” piece of wood. Up next are the two-person cross cut where contestants saw off two cookies instead of one on similar chalk lines and the Jack and Jill competition, which is just as it sounds, one man and one woman competing.
“Accuracy and time is how you win it,” Emery says. “With these, they can get disqualified if they’re not accurate.”
Following the Jack and Jill is the underhand chop, which is judged by the amount of time it takes to chop through an eight-by-eight-foot timber. According to Emery, the axes used in this competition are often specially made and can cost upwards of $500 or $600.
There’s three chainsaw events, the first being the chainsaw stock saw, with the tools provided by Gerry Gingras of New Hampshire. Billings says Gringras is a world champion and Emery adds that for the past eight or nine years, he’s been named champion at the Oxford County Fair’s competition.
“He’s really good and he’s a nice fellow,” Emery says.
Then there’s the modified class, or chainsaw stock appearing, where the tool looks like a regular chainsaw, but can be jacked-up internally. The third event is the the chainsaw hot saw, where engines from Volkswagens or the like can be used inside the tool. Billings adds that for these competitions, the chain saws can cost anywhere between $5,000 and $7,000.
“They have to take three cuts on the line, down, up and down,” Emery says. “Accuracy and the time it takes to do that is how it’s figured out for the points.”
The last competition for the Woodmen’s Field Day, and the one Emery calls “fascinating,” is the tree fell. There’s 20 trees total that will be chopped down.
“They have to fell a tree and hit a stake that’s in the ground that’s 16 feet out from the base of the tree,” she says. “If it’s a hit, that’s great.”
If there aren’t any hits, then points are awarded to those who chopped down their trees the fastest.
Emery and Billings made sure it’s easier for people to view the competition by adding bleachers next to the arena. Billings, along with Tommy Richards, are donating logs for the competition and visiting local businesses for donations for those participating and watching the event. There’s a number of gift cards available, along with two wooden sculptures—a bear and a moose—which anyone who gets a ticket can win.
For more information and for a full schedule, visit www.oxfordcountyfair.com/.