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Time for Timberfest

Sheridan's big event celebrates 27th year

By Wayne Bryan

This article was published September 26, 2010 at 6:00 a.m.

Trice Dunn of Murray, Ky., swings his ax during the horizontal chop event at last year's Lumberjack Competition during Timberfest in Sheridan. Timberfest will be open this Friday and Saturday and will offer fun for the entire family.

— As many as 12,000 visitors are expected in Sheridan during Timberfest 2010 on Friday and Saturday.

Centered on the Grant County Courthouse Square, Timberfest is the city’s biggest event of the year, offering a variety of events for the entire family, said Becky Nichols, executive director of the Grant County Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the event.

“It is Sheridan’s celebration of logging. That is big business in the area,” she said, “but it’s more than just a big old event for the loggers.”

The festival began in 1984 when members of the Chamber decided to combine a bluegrass festival and the annual Merchants Fair into one event. Since then it has grown.

To try and take in everything, those attending Timberfest should first get to the square on Friday evening. Visitors may want to pick up an activity guide from the Chamber of Commerce information booth.

Some of the activities include a visit to the arts and crafts booths; children’s games, which are available nearby, along with a petting zoo; and a chance to watch the junior competition of the annual Dutch Oven Cook-Off.

The pedestrian crowds will not have to worry about motor traffic.

“We close off a couple of streets,” Nichols said.

When the Timberfest 5K Run and the 2K Walk are held Saturday during the town’s 27th annual celebration weekend, traffic will be controlled as the participants make their way through an out-and-back course from the courthouse, then wind through the residential areas of Sheridan.

On Saturday morning, visitors should get downtown early for a pancake breakfast and a parade. The Timberfest Parade is set for 10 a.m., and Nichols said it is a favorite event for Grant County residents and visitors alike. The parade features Miss and Mrs. Timberfest and their court. All were selected during the Timberfest Pageant on Sept. 25 at the Sheridan High School Fine Arts Auditorium.

After the parade, it would be a good time for those wanting to see the Arkansas State Lumberjack Championships to find a good seat. As in past years, covered bleachers will be set up around the competition area and will provide some shade for the audience.

Lumberjacks come from across the country to Sheridan for the championship, which has been televised by ESPN in previous years. However, Stacy Harris, director of Timberfest, said the sports network has not contacted her about the event this year.

The competitors battle it out with ax and chain saw in every way imaginable to see who is fastest at cutting wood. Events during the ax competition include the horizontal chop, the Jack and Jill crosscut contest, the ax throw and the springboard chop. That is when the competitor first hacks out a wedge from the log about head high and then jams a board into the notch. The lumberjack then climbs to stand on the bounding slab to chop through the log about 10 feet off the ground.

There are several different chain saw divisions, including super-modified chain saws, powered by motorcycle engines. When those big saws get started, they can be as good at ear splitting as at wood slicing.

In 2009, Carson Bosworth of Lake Geneva, Wis., earned the title of overall champion, as he did in 2008. The competition can last as long as five hours.

After the lumberjack event, there is still the walk and run through the community and the adult division of the Dutch Oven Cook-Off. There is a Car Show with a display of cars and trucks, a bow shoot with prizes, and the Pinewood Derby.

Another favorite with the residents is the Pet Show. From a Look-A-Like contest to the Best Costume competition, there are several events that always entertain the crowd.

All of the fun and games have a good cause, Nichols said.

“It is our biggest fundraiser, and each year we provide scholarships to five deserving seniors from the Grant County schools,” she said.

Closing the celebration on Saturday evening is a concert of old-time Rock ’n’ Roll from Sonny Burgess and the Legendary Pacers.

An Arkansas native, Burgess had a band that recorded with Sun Records in Memphis in the late 1950s, along with Elvis Presley, Jerry Less Lewis and Johnny Cash.

“Maybe the band didn’t make it to the top, but they backed up a lot of the greats,” said Bill Crouse of Sheridan, who has helped arrange the entertainment for Timberfest.

The band started in 1955 and has been going for 55 years, performing with various rock legends, including Roy Orbison, Little Richard and Bruce Springsteen.

“[Sonny Burgess and the Legendary Pacers] were here last year and everybody liked them, and so we brought them back,” Krauss said.

Harris has been volunteering to help put on Timberfest for 12 years, and this is her 10th year as director. She said the project is always worthwhile.

“Maybe in the week before the event, I start wondering why I do this,” she said, laughing. “But then the people come in, and we all enjoy some down-home, clean country fun.”

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