Weather helps boost Woodsmen’s Days attendance
TUPPER LAKE — What a difference some wonderful weather can make.
After pouring rain caused attendance to plummet at the Tupper Lake’s Woodsmen’s Days the past three years, warmth, sunshine and clear skies greeted the event over the weekend, and organizers couldn’t have been any happier.
The Woodsmen’s Days kicked off Friday evening with a dinner at Raquette River Brewing, and then really got going with Saturday’s events, starting off with the traditional parade from the town hall to the municipal park, where most of the action took place.
Denise Roberts, one of the organizers of the Woodsmen’s Days, said about 3,000 people came through the gate this year, which was well above the number who came out to see the event in 2017.
“Sunshine,” Roberts said with a big laugh, describing the best thing about the event this time around. “We really needed it. Unfortunately after three years of rain, we were at the point where we just wanted to keep Woodsmen’s Days going. Our ticket sales were up. Things went pretty well.”
The present Woodsmen’s Days has a much different flavor to it than those from years ago when many more lumbering competitions were held. Gone are the chopping and sawing contests that used to take place, but there are still plenty of competitions and exhibitions that can be enjoyed by the young and old alike.
On Saturday and Sunday, people were able to enjoy exhibitions and contests with the big logging equipment, and as usual, there were loads of chainsaw artists carving logs into various sculptures, which were ultimately sold off at the Woodsmen’s Days auction. One of the weekend’s champions was Scott Lizotte, who was named the operator of the year after turning in the fastest combined time in the logging competition.
The biggest draw for spectators was Saturday night’s night games held at the Municipal Park’s ball diamond. The fun kicked off with a long row of children passing greased watermelons, and then the youngsters got their chance to shimmy up a greased pole. Activities then wrapped up under the lights with the adult tug of war, and the greased pole climb. Roberts said for the first time, no team was able to make it to the top of the pole to ring the bell, despite some pretty admirable efforts.
Woodsmen’s Days draws local residents and visitors each summer, and one group of spectators that annually shows up for the fun hail from the Catskills. Tracy Spanhanke said about a dozen family members and friends have been making their pilgrimage up the Northway to Tupper Lake for decades to enjoy Woodsmen’s Days.
“We love coming up here,” Spanhake said. “It’s a little vacation for all of us. “This year, we went swimming in the lake, we went boating, and we love staying at the Blue Jay Campgrounds. It’s just a fun event. We like watching the events and drinking beer.”
Spanhake’s daughter, Lia Simmons, said the children’s watermelon pass was her favorite part of the festivities.
Other visitors who competed included campers from Young Life on Upper Saranac Lake, a bridal party and a group of kayakers who are staying at the Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid.
Although the Woodsmen’s Days may never return to its heyday when there were all types of competitions to see and the prize money was bigger, Roberts said she’d love to see many of those activities return to the event, which has been taking place for more than 35 years.
“Years ago when this started, we had a lot of local guys competing, and then we had the pros coming in, which really made it tougher on the locals,” Roberts said. “We’d love to get all those contests back, but obviously, that would be tough. We are going to get more people involved. It’s a tradition. We don’t want to see it go away, but it takes a lot of work to put this all together. We had some people come up to us this year and say they want to help, so that’s a step in the right direction.”