With the popularity of beards and plaid shirts these days, one might feel as if they already have lots of exposure to lumberjack culture, or at least these stereotypes.

Actual lumberjacks in North America have a long and hearty history spanning from the 1800s up to the 1940s. As North America was settled, the need for lumber grew exponentially and lumberjacks worked the frontlines of this economy. All of this work was done in a world without chainsaws and gas-powered machinery, making the work even more impressive.

The skills and hand tools associated with this traditional trade could have easily ended up in logging museums but this is not the case thanks to lumberjack competitions. For over 50 years, the skills of traditional lumberjacks have been repurposed into competitive events and championships throughout the world. With events like log rolling, 60-foot speed climb, springboard chop and dozens of others, these events are demanding of the competitors and amazing for the spectators.

In 2012, the Ontario Lumberjack Championships were founded in our area and, since the inaugural event, hundreds of competitors from around the world and thousands of spectators have been drawn to this unique day.

The 2016 event takes place this Saturday, June 11 at the Beaverton Fairgrounds in Brock Township and is made possible with sponsorship from the Canadian Protection Plan and the Township of Brock. As with all community events, the success depends on the support of organizations, businesses and municipalities to recognize the benefits and make something truly great.

Shannon O’Donnell is one of the organizers and has been with the event since its beginnings in 2012. “The community is very enthusiastic, as is the surrounding regional municipality of Durham,” says O’Donnell. “There has also been continued support from many residents, groups and sponsors from Brechin and Ramara and we are very glad we were able to find a suitable venue that is still close to our roots and can have an impact on the whole area.”

The number of people participating varies in age but people of all backgrounds compete. “We’ve grown the competitor pool from approximately 30 to almost 50 this year,” says O’Donnell. “Coming from all over Canada and the U.S., and even one from Australia, many of these competitors are among the best in the world and certainly top in North America.”

While watching some of the 14 different events taking place that day will be the highlight, there are other reasons to head to Beaverton this weekend too. It is very much a family-oriented event with activities for children too, including a nail drive competition just for kids. There is also a community village featuring vendors of all types and, of course, a wide variety of food vendors. This year the event will also feature a sports lounge and craft beer tastings too. “We have a beer tent being hosted by a local craft brewer Old Flame Brewing Co. from Port Perry,” says O’Donnell.

The event officially begins at 11 a.m. but gates open at 9 a.m. for those who want to get a good seat and watch some of the preliminary qualifying rounds. This provincial championship is also televised on TSN as part of their Lumberjacks TV series.

Opening ceremonies for the Ontario Lumberjack Championships begin at the Beaverton Fairgrounds this Saturday and admission is a very reasonable $5 per person. For more information, visit www.ontariolumberjackchampionships.com or call 705-345-9177.