Margaretville Park swarmed with buzzing chainsaws during the Catskill Forest Festival on Saturday. A logging competition provided entertainment as six contestants competed on a variety of skills, including who could saw with precision or calculate exactly where the tree will fall.
Logging instructors Bill Lindloff and Bill Girard evaluated each cut and scored the contestants accordingly. “We also take into consideration safety,” said Bill Lindloff, who deducted 10 points from the contestant who forgot to pull his visor down over his face.
The competitors scored for points while demonstrating techniques with names such as bore-cutting, aim notching, speed-cutting, bucking and limbing. “The bucking technique is one of the most challenging to master,” said Lindloff, a resident of Endicott, explaining that the term refers to a technique for cutting a tree that is close to another log, tree or post, or one that is on the ground.
Russ Howe, competing for his first time, strategically looked at the log requiring bucking. It was surrounded by 10 red poles. Carefully directing the point of his chainsaw, Howe deftly cut into the large log and steered the blade clear of the red poles. The tense audience relaxed and cheered when the wood chips stopped flying, seeing that Howe had cut the log with little damage to the surrounding poles.
The logging competition was hosted by Pro.CUTS, Lindloff’s educational organization, in conjunction with the Catskill Forest Association of Arkville. The rules and regulations governing the event correspond with those used in Soren Eirksson’s “Game of Logging,” a training program developed in the 1960s now in widespread use.
Lindloff, a longtime Game of Logging student, competed in the early 90s, even winning a silver medal at the World Championship in Italy in 2004. “But, in year 1996, I began devoting all my time to training and now am a New York state trainer,” said Lindloff, who teaches an average of 100 to 150 classes per year in the state.
Despite its name, the Game of Logging is serious business, Lindloff explained.
“Competitors are not invited to the logging competitions until they’ve completed 3 or 4 levels of training,” he said. The first level focuses on felling and safety. The second focuses on maximizing chainsaw performance. The third level focuses on techniques for difficult to cut trees. The fourth focuses on harvests plans and productivity.
While many who compete are professionals, the training program has widespread applications.
“Anyone who owns a chain saw should go through at least the level one training,” contestant Mike Finnerty said. “Even if you only cut firewood, the level one class can’t be overestimated. It’s best to know how to go home after work with all your body parts.”
At noon, the competitors took a lunch break and milled around the festival with the crowd. Food vendors offered an assortment of foods. Merchandise vendors came from near and far, displaying wood products such as benches, furniture and boats. Equipment used for logging was interspersed around the grounds to gaze at.
Woodworker and cabinetmaker Brian Harnett demonstrated chain saw carving, creating bears, eagles, fish, trolls and dinosaurs from hunks of wood to the awe of onlookers.
The Catskill Forest Association had a booth with samples of unmarked bottles of maple syrup produced by 11 local farms - plus one “wild card.”
“We also added a bottle of Aunt Jemima syrup,” explained Becky Porter of the CFA Board of Directors. “One lady tested the syrups and claimed (the Aunt Jemima) the best.”
Becky Porter then told the tester which one she had picked.
“The lady showed scandal and bowed her head and said, ‘I’m so ashamed,’” Porter said with a laugh. “But, most everyone selected one of the high quality real maple syrups produced in the area.”
Catskill Forest Association sponsors the annual festival as an extension of their goal to promote forest stewardship and quality practices. For more information about CFA, visit catskillforest.org.