Lumberjack Show is One of State Fair's Highlights
Sawing, climbing, jousting, log-rolling all part of the fun
PALMER – “Yo-ho!”
It is a way to say thank you, a way to agree and a sure sign that the Fred Scheer’s Lumberjack show is underway.
Before every show the lumberjacks take steps to make sure that each show goes off without a hitch.
First they chop wood, then they get their gear ready. “I'm sharpening the chain saw here so we can cut the wood faster,” said Cassidy Scheer, son of show owner Fred Scheer. "Sharper axes and sharper saws make the show better. The wood cuts faster and the crowd is happier.”
And for Cassidy Scheer, keeping everyone happy is the main priority.
"My favorite part of doing competitions, like here at the fair, is making people smile. I like competing, I have a competitive instinct, I like competitions, I like winning, I like trying to win, but at places like the fair, its all about having kids smile and making somebody’s day better or more enjoyable.”
They also get the set ready, so the lumberjacks -- compiled of a medical salesmen, a college student and a world champion speed climber -- can fly from one competition to the next.
"[We're] just mounting up our wood that we are going to chop, make sure everything is looking nice... pull our flannels out of the dryer, put a smile on our faces, get ready to go,” said Cassidy Scheer.
The last step is safety. They dress their feet in stainless steel socks and cover their shins in fireplace screens.
"Our axes are razor sharp, if you miss and you're not wearing protective gear, you are going to pay for it.
“I have actually hit it hard and normally those axes would cut right down to your bone and it actually stopped it. I don't chop ever if I’m not wearing these right here,” he said, tapping his shin.
Cassidy Scheer was a world champion log roller as a kid, he said, because of his who is father was. Being a lumberjack was his destiny.
This year, Cassidy is competing against long-time lumberjack Nate Hare. They started log-rolling at the home of the show -- Hayward Wisconsin. Hare was just five. These days he spends his time as a medical salesmen is Minneapolis, Minnesota. He took two weeks off to help make the show happen.
“The shows are a lot of fun, it keeps you in good shape and it’s just this show, here in Alaska at the state fair, is the best in the country,” said Hare. “So getting an opportunity to go fish in the morning and go to The Sluicebox and the audiences are incredible.” He said there is “nothing else in the world like it.”
The three fly through wood chopping competitions, speed climbing events, log-rolling, jousting and wood carving -- a “Hare Chair,” which is given to a toddler.
They are events that were originally done in logging camps over 100 years ago, but these days they have some modern twists.
The competitions all keep the crowd laughing, but they're harder than they look.
“You have to breathe. People think it doesn’t take that long, but when you go into the saw you breathe out, inhale on the way back, because you have to keep breathing otherwise you're going to get really tired and your body is going to stop working,” said Tina Scheer, world champion lumberjill, better known as Timber Tina.
But in the end she said it’s worth the work when you watch the log split in two.
For Cassidy Scheer and his family, it's a tradition. And they have no plans of stopping as long as the “the kind people of Alaska and the Alaska State Fair welcome us on back.”