A thin but steady crowd mingled around furniture displays, RVs, boats and even a pool with live fish at the Outdoor Sports, Lake & Cabin Show Sunday at Memorial Coliseum.
But three times each day, everyone gathered near the back of the room in front of a stage with two logs standing vertically on either side of it that nearly reached the Coliseum’s ceiling.
The stage was covered with other smaller logs and saws. In front of it was a pool of water about 20 feet by 20 feet with a fat log floating inside.
Welcome to the Timberworks Lumberjack Show, a sawing, cutting, carving, racing and logrolling competition between two male-female teams of professional lumberjacks and lumberjills.
About 200 chairs were set out in front of the stage on Sunday, and all of them were filled for the half-hour show that began at 12:30 p.m.
An announcer and scorekeeper split the crowd into two logging camps and told the audience to call out the lumberjack cry “you-hoo” to support their teams as they went head-to-head for seven timber sports.
The competition started with a crosscut sawing event in which the teams raced to slice a log in half by pulling a saw over it.
The second event was an ax throwing contest in which competitors took turns tossing axes head-over-handle at a dart board.
In the next four events, the lumberjacks took center stage. The audience cheered on a wood block chopping race, covered their ears for a noisy chain saw cutting race and obstacle course and then watched in amazement as the lumberjacks raced up and down the two massive logs nearly scraping the ceiling of the Coliseum in a speed climbing competition.
After all the excitement, it was time for a little comic relief. So the lumberjacks put on a skit as they tried to carve a rabbit using a chain saw.
“The crowd loves it because there’s a lot of humor,” said Samantha Hadley, 24, a lumberjill for one of the camps.
The final event was logrolling, and this time, it was the lumberjills’ turn. The girls mounted the log floating in the water, and rolled it back and forth until one of them fell off.
The announcer said Hadley is one of the top women professional log rollers in the world, but her younger sister Sarah, 17, bested her Sunday in two out of three rounds.
Hadley said she started log rolling when she was 5 years old because her hometown Hayward, Wis., is also home to the Lumberjack World Championships.
The games started in 1960 as a way to pay homage to the history of the logging industry across the U.S., according to the website lumberjackworldchampionships.com.
For Hadley, the history continues with her family and friends at the Timberworks Lumberjack Show who travel the country to compete in front of live audiences.
“We just grew up around it,” Hadley said.
Clinton Derrow of Fort Wayne came to the Outdoor Sports, Lake & Cabin Show on Sunday looking for camping gear.
But he decided to stop and watch the Timberworks Lumberjack Show when he heard the show was about to start.
“I liked the climbing and the logrolling,” Derrow said afterward. “But it was all pretty good.”
Collin Bouchard, 10, of Fort Wayne shared his enthusiasm. Bouchard brought his grandfather to the show on Sunday, and after the show, he was still singing “Cotton-Eye Joe” (one of the songs from the performance) and dancing a jig.
“I just thought it was great,” Bouchard said. “My favorite part was the logrolling because I loved all the splashing that took place.”