Early Saturday morning, different exhibitors set up their goods for sale. One of the 34 exhibitors was Andy Cummings, a chainsaw artist.
When walking into the main entrance to Pensacola State College Milton campus, families stopped to admire Cummings sculpting an unfinished dog figurine out of a single piece of log with his chainsaw.
While Cummings wasn’t sculpting pieces to be donated, the sounds of bluegrass music and the fresh smell of wood filled the air.
Hundreds of people gathered at PSC’s Milton campus Saturday for the 25th annual Forestry Conclave and Lumberjack Festival.
Once inside, families had the opportunity to do hands-on activities with the 4-H Club, including face painting, learning how to make butter and creating pinecone bird feeders.
“I think that the festival is promoting good health choices and the environment to kids,” said PSC student volunteer Tabitha North. “The kids were running all around this morning.”
After collecting festival pamphlets, spectators gathered outside in the frigid air to watch participants compete in such events as knife and axe throwing, log rolling, bow sawing, cross-cut sawing and pulpwood tossing.
“The hardest event, I would have to say from just seeing it, is probably the cross-cut,” said Sara Wilson, director of Student Affairs on the Milton campus. “It involves timing between two people, and depending on the type of wood that we have, it could be very hard.
“The hardest prize to get is the grand prize. That goes to the person who gets the highest score overall.”
Based on time, participants were ranked from first to third place in each competition. Mike Mueller, who was ranked number one in five of the six events that he competed in, won the grand prize of a dual smoker with a propane tank. Other top-ranking participants received a ribbon and a gift bag filled with donated products.
“Individuals donate logs, gift cards, chainsaws, monetary donations, signs, free dinners, canoe trips, tanning and just a variety of other things,” Wilson said. “People just want to help since it is for such a good cause.
“The support is amazing. Everyone in the community continues to donate, and donate more, each year.”
All proceeds from the festival go directly to PSC Relay for Life, which will be held in April.
Supplies are carried over from year to year. If equipment needs to be replaced, the Forestry Club will pay for the new items. Additional donations throughout the year help cover these costs.
“I’ve been coming for the past three years, and there’s never been a major accident,” Wilson said. “The club does their best to make sure that the equipment is in shape, and that the events are set up correctly.
“But the possibility is always there.”
The Lumberjack Festival isn’t just to show off skills — it’s for families.
Fathers and sons competed in competitions together, children learned the traditional way to make butter, and families huddled together under blankets in the spectator bleachers outside.
Even as families were leaving, children ran up to forestry workers to ask last-minute questions.
The only thing that kept small children from whimpering on the walk out was the comments from women serving coffee by the entrance saying, “Don’t worry, the festival will be here again next year.”