Nelsonville's annual event, named for the fabled lumberjack, is bigger and more family-friendly than ever.
Mention the first full weekend in October in Nelsonville and thoughts of lumberjacks, steam shows, and chainsaw carving come to mind. It's a time when toting an axe is commonplace, when the roar of chainsaws fills the air and when no one minds a little sawdust on their clothing. This and much more can be found at the Paul Bunyan Show on Hocking College's campus, where everyone wants to be a lumberjack - at least for the weekend.
This is the 50th anniversary of the Paul Bunyan Show, believed to be the world's oldest forest industry trade show. This year also marks the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Forest Service. Special activities throughout the weekend help to celebrate each of these milestones.
The forest products industry contributes significantly to Ohio's economy with an annual impact of $26 billion. It's appropriate that the Paul Bunyan Show, named for the legendary logging giant, salutes the timber industry on an annual basis by bringing this impressive event to the Hocking Valley, an area surrounded by Wayne National Forest.
About a dozen exhibitors of product lines, such as Stihl, a regional distributorship owned by Bryan Equipment of Cincinnati, have a history with the Paul Bunyan Show. This organization brings a third generation of the Bryan family to the show, and their commitment continues to grow as the Paul Bunyan Show's title sponsor.
The show's grounds were once contained in the area stretching from the pine forest to just beyond E.B. Miller Arena. Attendance growth and an increase in the number of vendors have pushed boundaries outward, and exhibits including the woodcraft tent, horse log skidding competitions are now located near the Robbins Crossing Living History Museum. The Truck Rodeo sponsored by Columbus Truck & Equipment is held in the main parking lot.
The Expo Center is new this year and is being developed as an exhibit area for weather-sensitive displays, such as high-tech computerized equipment and fine hardwood products.
Educational activities sponsored by Yoder Lumber Co. have relocated to the Expo Center and visitors to the area will find a variety of demonstrations and displays. Artist Ron Miller will demonstrate the art of woodturning as he creates a bowl. Jim Bartlett will talk about the evolution of axes, from those made and used by prehistoric man to the modern steel axes of today. Are there black bears in Ohio? You'd better believe it, and Dave Swanson knows where they are and how to avoid them.
Rural Action will share information about invasive non-native plants as well as ginseng and other forest herbs. After listening to Chris Chimiel, Southeast Ohio's pawpaw expert, everyone will know how to pick the perfect pawpaw. For those unfamiliar with "tree cookies," watch as they are made and take one home from the Project Learning Tree exhibit.
Numerous fundraising projects benefit Log-a-Load for Kids. Brady Trace, Hocking College coordinator of sports and fitness, heads the 5-K run/walk on a course through the campus and along the bike path. "The 'Timber Trot' is for everyone who enjoys running or walking. There's an entry fee and T-shirts for the first 100 participants," Trace says.
What's the Paul Bunyan Show without lumberjacks? This year, there are some new twists to the already-familiar sights. The initial inductions into the Lumberjack Hall of Fame will be made on Sunday in E.B. Miller Arena, just before the International Lumberjack Competition begins.
Hocking College President John Light says those inducted would not exclusively be lumberjacks. "We'll look at the broader scope and possibly include some individuals who contributed prominently to the forest products industry or the Paul Bunyan Show," Dr. Light says.
For those who want to see firsthand why lumberjacks are worthy of a hall of fame, there is ample opportunity to view live competitions, including a student contest on Friday. On Saturday, Ohio resident lumberjacks compete for the state title, and the seasoned veterans who are among the finest in the world compete Sunday. Lumberjack competitions on Saturday and Sunday are sponsored by Bandit Industries, Husqvarna and Rocky Outdoor Gear Store. All are held in E. B. Miller Arena, the area named in memory of Burns Miller, whose efforts brought the event to Nelsonville and in 1974.
If you're looking for a competition that is fast and fun to watch, catch Stump Wrestling, in the area just beyond the log-rolling pond. Sponsored by The Learning Center at Hocking College, this event features competitors standing stumps, trying to pull their opponent to the ground.
Horse log skidding is a longstanding event that is very popular with show visitors, and there are separate competitions for men and women. Some competitions, such as the loader and skidder contest, are strictly for industry personnel. The Truck Rodeo, sponsored by Columbus Truck & Equipment, is for professional log truck drivers; students compete on Friday.
Stihl will host a variety of activities in Chainsaw Arena, including a student stock saw competition on Friday. On Saturday and Sunday, saws straight from the box will be available to other amateurs who want to try their hand in an amateur stock saw competition. Watch as Mike Sullivan and Dave Jewett, two of the top 10 competitors on the ESPN Stihl TimberSports, offer several one-hour Lumberjack Shows of Champions demonstrations, featuring chopping and hot saws.
The auction of chainsaw carvings follows a carving competition in Chainsaw Arena, with proceeds benefiting OFA's forestry camp and the Hocking College scholarship fund. Carvers representing Stihl's Pro Carving Team, comprised of Mike Pace, Chuck Schepflin, Jeff Riddle and Dan Schweiger, raised more than $4,000 last year.
Husqvarna hosts activities in the Arborist Arena, where world champion tree climber Rip Tompkins applies his skills in demonstrating precision tree felling. Another expert, Ron Hartel, a former lumberjack with seven international championship titles, will demonstrate chainsaw safety and filing techniques. Other demonstrations throughout the weekend in the Arborist Arena include chainsaw applications and arborist skills and a Women's Amateur Chainsaw competition on Sunday.
Safe and environmentally sound logging practices go hand-in-hand with skills learned by participating in the Game of Logging. Larry Caudill of Columbus is the 2003 and 2004 winner of Husqvarna's Ohio Regional GOL Finals, held this year on Saturday.
The lumberjack water show is back thanks to sponsors Pepsi and Budweiser. Crowds line the pond to watch as lumberjacks try to keep their balance on logs and compete in canoe jousting.
Board the caboose shuttle at Robbins Crossing to get to Nelsonville and back. Visit the huge arts and crafts tent, bulging at the seams with everything from birdhouses to doll houses and baskets to singing crickets, all made from wood.
The Ohio Forestry Association, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2003, is a co-sponsor of the Paul Bunyan Show, along with Hocking College, No. 1 in the nation for associate degree graduates in natural resources. They partner with Stihl and other exhibitors to host an annual event worthy of the Paul Bunyan name.
"One of the most positive things the Paul Bunyan Show offers is an opportunity for the general public to get a better understanding of the relationship between the forest products industry and our need for wood products," says Dr. Roy Palmer, Hocking College vice president and former OFA board chairman. "A day spent at the Paul Bunyan Show gives an insight they won't get anywhere else."
Paul Bunyan Show, Oct. 7â€“9, Hocking College, Nelsonville, 877/462-5462. Adults $8, students and seniors $5, under age 6 free.