Setting the Stage for THE WOODCUTTERS BALL

Great Lakes Bay Area to Host the 1st Women's Professional Lumberjack Competition. Kickoff Fundraiser Happening at the Rusty Saw on Feb. 20th

Posted In: News, Local,   From Issue 785   By: Robert E Martin

13th February, 2014     0

2014 will witness a welcome new addition to the Great Lakes Bay Area’s Summer Festival schedule with the inaugural Woodcutter’s Ball Women’s Professional Lumberjack Competition, which is slated to be a two-day festival scheduled for June 14 & 15th that will be held in Auburn, Michigan.

Sanctioned by the Midwest Lumberjack Association, festival organizers pivotal goal with this endeavor is to celebrate both the area’s lumbering heritage along with the healthy lifestyles engendered in modern women’s action sports. According to Review contributor Matt deHeus (whom is serving as Event Manager) “It is our feeling that the ‘Lumberjills’ embody both of these facets as well as any other group active today in sports and family entertainment.”

The Woodcutter’s Ball will feature a world-class field, with invitations already extended as far as Australia and New Zealand. The plan is to crown individual and team champions in traditional events like the underhanded chop and two-handed saw. Opportunities for local individuals and businesses to become involved in amateur competitions are also expected to be part of the fun.

In addition to the athletic events, the Woodcutter’s Ball will feature live music, a re-enactment village, food and family activities, but will also function as a fundraiser for local public charities, including the Bay Area Women’s Center and Shelterhouse.

To launch this new endeavor, the group is holding a Woodcutter’s Ball Festival Kick-off Party at the Rusty Saw Smokehouse, 1205 Washington Avenue in Bay City on Thursday, February 20th at 5:00 PM.  There is no charge for this event and The Rusty Saw is generously donating a percentage of your bill to the festival organizing committee, which includes Paul Vought, Beth Beilor, Bob Gray, Erin Poltorak, Justin Munch, Suzann Bridges, and Nancy Zalewski, who is head of the Michigan Lumberjack Association.  In addition to fabulous food and a fully stocked bar featuring many Michigan craft beers, a Silent Auction will be held along with live music.

“The idea for this festival came up because our area has a very strong lumbering heritage, but we were surprised to discover that no lumber related events were being staged or proposed,” explain deHeus. “When I was a kid growing up in Oscoda there would be this Paul Bunyan Festival, which originally was more a lumberjack festival as opposed to a county fair.”

“Recently I saw these women’s lumbering events on ESPN that were incredibly entertaining, out of character, and entirely unexpected,” continues deHeus. “These women are dynamic athletes, so we contacted the Midwest Lumberjack Association that was very helpful and came up with the idea of staging an international competition with teams coming from New Zealand, Australia and Canada.”

“It seems that Women’s Action Sports are really taking off and we are in an excellent position to establish some major for our region,” adds deHeus. “There are two American Lumberjack Associations – one from the West Coast and another from the Midwest – and neither of them have an event like this, so I feel this carries a major potential for our area.”

Some of the competitive events scheduled include tree climbing and chopping, stock and modified chain saws, and potentially a logrolling competition. Another event centers around starting a fire from kindling and the first person to boil water in a tin can wins the event.  “There are many different variety of saw competitions,” explains Matt, “but also amateur events like axe throwing, which we hope to develop business sponsorship around.”

The group hopes that eventually they can possibly build a mini-Wheatland type festival out of this event which features music, lumbering events, and a broader celebration of American culture.  “This presents a potential renaissance for our area and I believe there is a lot we can do around this event,” reflects deHeus. “Interest started picking up in late fall for this event and over the winter we’ve worked out the logistics and got other involved. Right now the real issue is financing it,”

“Our goal is to pitch this event as a festival for the whole region, but I also feel it important to note that no professional lumberjack festivals currently exist in Michigan for either males or females; and there haven’t been any for years,” states Matt. “There’s a lot of lumberjack shows that roll into the area, but those individuals are there to entertain a crowd as opposed to competing. Trust me – these girls go into a whole other gear when go out to win a medal.”

Presently The Woodcutter’s Ball organizing committee is engaged in a sponsorship campaign and has a handful of committed sponsors and has risen between $8,000 to $10,000 dollars. Their fundraising goal to properly stage this festival is $35,000, which is why they are hosting a series of kick-off parties such as this first one at the Rusty Saw on February 20th.

“It is my hope that some businesses and organizations can see the value of bringing people in for an event like this,” continues deHeus. “We are organized as a Limited Profit Company, which does not provide services like a non-profit does directly, but raises revenue to the point of doing social good, which is why we are donating the net proceeds from this festival to domestic women’s shelters and for raising money for families in distress.”

“We understand these are tight times for businesses, regardless of size, and a lot of people have volunteered their time, effort and talent, in addition to some of the funds for this inaugural event,” adds Matt. “Plus the group that we have involved organizing this event have been involved with larger festivals around our area – everything from Tall Ships to the Auburn Corn Fest – and the people on the organizing committee have a track record of raising charitable monies through other events. Indeed, Paul Vought from the Indie Spot held a Christmas Caroling event over the holidays that raised $6,000 for the Women’s Shelter.”

“We’ve got a track record of success for running successful fund raisers and events and anticipate 2000 people attending this event,” concludes deHeus. “There will be four competition teams and maybe six to nine from the United States, competing in individual and group events.”

“All the preliminary rounds will take place on Saturday with the finals happening on Sunday, along with a musical concert Saturday evening and a meet & greet with the Lumberjills.”

“These are incredibly athletic event and amazing events to witness, plus nobody is taking a real risk because the Lumberjills bring everything in with them and do their own setup and rigging, because it can be dangerous and we can’t take chances with volunteers or donated work for these elaborate set-ups.”

“This is definitely going to be a major event for our area, so I encourage everybody to mark June 14-15 on their calendar; and encourage people to attend our first fundraiser on February 20th.

Those interesting in pledging sponsorship support or volunteering their time to assist with the Woodcutter’s Ball are encourage to phone 989-225-3741 and also visit their facebook page.


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