Living in a state where natural resources drive the economy, we see more than our fair share of loggers, forester, natural gas and oil drillers and coal miners. Many of us live off the land in more ways than one. Our families work farms, fall timber, mine coal, manage natural gas lines and wells. We hunt, fish, forage, farm and garden to support this way of life. Many live in tiny towns and hamlets that are lost to cell phone service and are more than an 30 minute drive to a shopping mall. It is in here in the Appalachian Mountains that the WORLD (yes, I do mean World) converges every year over Memorial Day weekend to see who is really the best at their chosen forest craft. The Wood Choppers Festival is a way for anyone interested in forestry, logging, milling and history to enjoy the company of over 150 men and woman who call the Logging life style a passion.
This year is the 50th anniversary of the Wood Choppers Festival held in the remote town called Webster Springs, West Virginia. This festival is full of axes, saws and fun that show cases the very best of the logging world. Contestants travel from all over the world to spend the weekend competing and sharing their love. The front man in the above photo is a world champion in this event (Spring Board) and travels here every year from Australia. Many of them come from Canada and Europe to see who can really be a modern Paul Bunyan.
This is for any one who does not know the American Folk Tail character Paul Bunyan and for those who remember seeing this as a kid. I think it is funny that in the song “Paul Bunyan” playing throughout the video Paul is only 6′ 3″ and the man in the above photo is the tallest competitor at 6′ 5″ and a leaner version of Paul.
The final day begins with an ax tossing contest and continues through out the afternoon with the standing log, Hot saws and the two-man cross-cut saw contests. Then after the competition many of the choppers visit with the fans, share hardy hand shakes and spend time telling tall tails to one another. At end of the long day the winners of the “World Titles” get announced and awards are given.
Today the over all world Champion was actually a local young man from Webster Springs, West Virginia, Mike Cogar. He comes from a long line of wood choppers who were born and raised in the mountains here. Just like Tom and his Grandfather the love of the woods passes from one generation to another.
Mike and his world-renowned family(both his father and grand father are world champions also) have been major supporters of this tiny town and this competition. It was such a pleasure to met them and share a day with all the wonderful people of this mountain town. It was wonderful to learn more about what it must have been like for my husbands grandfather who worked and lived in the timber camps at the turn of the century. Working with more axes then saws and trying to cut the big timber down to size.The spirit of Paul Bunyan is alive and well here in the woods of West Virginia.