Loggers felling a tree, 1940s. (Jack Lindsay, COV Archives – CVA 1184-2182)
Contrary to the popular belief, lumberjacks (and lumberjills) don’t like to “press wildflowers” and “eat buttered scones for tea” in their spare time. Well, maybe some do. But I suspect they’d rather participate in logger sports. There is no place better to do that than the north end of Howe Sound at the annual Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival, which is set for August 3rd to August 7th over the BC Day long weekend. (Fans of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” are already well versed in the reference. For those few of you who may be unfamiliar, I’ve embedded their “Lumberjack Song” below.)
Celebrating forestry skills since 1957, the Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival started out as a one-day “friendly” competition between local loggers. Today it is spread out over five days of family-friendly activities, community celebration and, of course, logger sports events.
Pole climb event (Logger’s Sports, Squamish.com)
According to Can-Log, the organization established to promote logger sports in Canada, “the sport has a rich and colourful history originating from logging camps in this country in the late 1800’s”. Traditionally, loggers cut down trees with either an axe, handsaw, or with the help of another logger and a crosscut saw. These days’ chainsaws and heavy machines do most of the hard work in the woods. Logger sports competitions acknowledge the rich history of forestry and logging and keep traditional methods and techniques alive.
Logging competition 1958 (Squamish Times Archive, Squamish Public Library – 1959.xx.xx.188 & 1959.xx.xx.133)
What exactly are logger sports? Can-Log describes them as “fast-paced and exciting” events ranging from log rolling and axe throwing to “racing up and down an 80 foot sparpole” and “chopping through a 12 inch diameter block on springboards 10 feet in the air!” A highlight of the festival is the World Championship Tree Falling competition, “a powerful sight not to be missed!”
11th Annual Squamish Loggers Sports Days Programme from 1968 (Logger’s Sports, Squamish.com)
The two-days of competition, held on the Saturday and Sunday, attracts not only local Canadian loggers but also competitors from around the world. The Squamish Days Logger Sports Association, the organization that puts on festival, says that participants compete “in one of three classes: novice, intermediate or open”, with cash prizes being awarded to the top competitors in each event.
Logging competition, 1959 (Squamish Times Archive, Squamish Public Library – 1959.xx.xx.227 & 1959.xx.xx.194)
In popular culture lumberjacks are depicted as burly bearded men who wear check shirts and suspenders and have voracious appetites. Who hasn’t ordered the Lumberjack’s or Logger’s Breakfast after a particularly heavy night of drinking? So it makes sense that food traditions also play a big part of the festival with the Rotary Beef BBQ, a crowd favourite for over 50 years, and the legendary Logger’s Pancake Breakfast topping the list.
Log rolling competition at P.N.E. Festival of Logging , 1966 (P.N.E. COV Archives, CVA 180-3695)
Since the logging industry no longer dominates the local economy, this festival affords the town the chance to celebrate its forestry heritage and community spirit. Again, the 60th anniversary of the festival takes place August 3rd to August 7th, so start growing that beard, grab your “Surrey Dinner Jacket” and head on up for the BC Day long weekend!