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Upshur Fair patrons enjoy crafts, cars and woodcutters

by Shawn Gainer

STAFF WRITER

BUCKHANNON -- The Upshur County Fair at Buckhannon-Upshur High School concluded on an upbeat note Sunday with the West Virginia State Woodchoppers' Competition, a car show, crafts exhibits and a photo pet show.

The woodchoppers' competition was a crowd pleaser, drawing a large group of people of all ages. Competition events included cross cutting with chain saws and old-fashioned band saws, axe throwing and a springboard competition. Prizes were awarded for each event and a first place prize was awarded for the entire competition.

While many of the competitors were strong of arm, the woodchoppers' events required balance, timing and accuracy more than brute force.

The springboard competition was all about accuracy and balance. Participants had to cut a niche in a pole with an axe, insert a board into the niche and climb on the board to cut another niche. Then competitors had to repeat the process until they could make their way to the top and chop through it.

"If you don't get the board in just right, forget it," said a sweating Barry Clutter of Arlington, who had just finished the springboard event. "Most of the really good guys make a niche in four strokes. They finish in a minute."

Clutter said the event replicates a logging technique used on large trees on the West Coast.

"Out there, the trees are so big you can't get a saw into the swells in the trunk. This way they can get to where the trunk is thinner and fell the tree," Clutter said. "I've done this for 34 or 35 years. That's why it's a little harder to get up and down the tree now. It does keep you in shape."

A surprising number of women participated in the competition and more than held their own in some of the events, especially cross cutting.

Lori Lemley, Tricia Roberts and Jennifer Lanham are spring 2000 graduates of West Virginia University, where they all participated in woodchoppers' competitions through the Forestry Club. The trio said they practice daily and have traveled as far as Wisconsin to participate in competitions.

"You just get addicted to it," said Roberts, of Morgantown, who added her favorite event is cross cutting. "The number of girls on the team is steadily increasing."

"Today we're chopping against the guys because we didn't have enough people for a women's event. We hope to have that in the future," Lemley said. "Sometimes, we have to pull women from the crowd to saw."

According to an edition of American Axmens' News that circulated at the competition, woodchoppers' competitions are coming into their own, getting airtime on ESPN, ESPN 2 and the Outdoor Channel.

Roy and Irene Cunningham of Sutton said the appeal of the event was no different from a football game or auto race.

"For me, the fun is the competition," Irene said.

Spectators could stop by the car show, where vintage models on display included a 1968 Camaro, a 1962 Corvette, a 1966 Mustang Convertible and a 1953 Hudson. Inside the high school cafeteria, the crafts show also drew a large crowd.

Rebecca Langford of Weston, who teaches oil painting through My Arts Desire Studio, displayed several paintings depicting rustic landscapes, some adapted from photographs of locations such as Blackwater Falls and others produced by her imagination. Langford said she feels the value of crafts reaches beyond the finished product.

"It's nice to do things the old way," she said. "It's so much fun to do and you get a lot more meaning out of life."

The overwhelming majority of fair-goers seemed to have a good time. Dora Neely of Rock Cave said she had only been on the grounds for a half-hour and liked what she saw, though she added the fair could benefit from a carnival for children.

"I really loved the flowers and crafts, and the wood chopping," Neely said. "Those guys are good."

Staff Writer Shawn Gainer can be reached at 626-1442.

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