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Timber! Lumberjacks and Lumberjills are putting on a show across the state

August 22, 2018, Hannah Erickson

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Have you ever thrown an axe or tried to stay afloat a rolling log? While those might not be among your normal weekend activities, one group of Southern Illinois University Carbondale students are hard at work perfecting their old forestry practices, and putting on a show in the process.

Steeped in a 68-year tradition, the forestry club at SIU is a long-time competitor in timber sports. This summer, that tradition continued as several students participated in the Illinois State Fair Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show, and others prepare for the DuQuoin State Fair Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show.

Perfecting their skills

Like any sport, timber competitions require a lot of training and practice. Students don’t just suddenly land in a forest and know how to navigate, or jump on a log and know how to balance. Rather, the club participants spend considerable time training and preparing for shows and competitions.

From summer to spring, the team trains together and prepares for important events such as the Annual Midwestern Foresters Conclave. The club has battled back-and-forth for championships, and they continue to push for the title. Some of the common events in this competition are axe throwing, cross-cut sawing, log rolling, underhand chop, compass and traverse, and more.

About 25-30 students make up the forestry club, but only a select few compete and travel to shows. Four particular students participated in the Illinois State Fair Show this year:

  • Anastacia Hanauer, senior from Springfield, Illinois.
  • Tucker Wetzel, senior from Macomb, Illinois.
  • Xavier Stewart, recent graduate from Peoria, Illinois.
  • Chase Vieweg, freshman from Taylorville, Illinois.

Gathering experience, while preserving the past

While timber sports may not rank as one of the most popular sporting events, the deeper purpose brings a unique value to the activities. For Charles Ruffner, professor in the Department of Forestry and club advisor, the club has important objectives.

“One thing we try to get across to the public who comes and sees this, is that it is not just a bunch of archaic old men throwing axes and stuff,” Ruffner said. “It’s educational, so people can see the different activities that went on 100 years ago that really helped to build this country. Each of these activities has some historical precedence that was done in the woods for some reason.”

Students who participate not only have opportunities to learn new things, but they also gain an appreciation and understanding of important forestry issues. While most students join the club with no experience, they leave with connections to other forestry enthusiasts and a foundation for future development in forestry issues.

This past year, one student even went on to join a professional lumberjack team, and has competed in multiple regional and national competitions.

Next stop is Du Quoin State Fair

While the team prepares for major competitions, they are warming up with another show at the Du Quoin State Fair. The program will be held on August 25. Shows will occur at 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.

Tickets are available now at https://www2.illinois.gov/sites/dsf/entertainment/freestages/Pages/FreeGrounds.aspx

Join the Forestry Club

The forestry club is made up of students from a variety of programs and majors. The club is open to any student who is interested in forestry issues, and presents valuable opportunities for personal and career growth. To find out more about joining the club, students can check out the forestry club table at the two upcoming RSO fairs:

  • Agriculture welcome BBQ and RSO fair: 5-7 p.m. Wednesday at the agriculture breezeway.
  • Campus RSO fair: 5-7 p.m. Thursday at the Student Center.

For more information about the forestry club, email siucfcprez@siu.edu.