Lumberjack show is a state fair favorite

CHOPS: Strength and homespun humor win over Woodlot crowds.

August 27, 2010 

The weather at the second day of the Alaska State Fair may have curbed some of the crowds, but at 1 p.m. at the Woodlot, a rain jacket- clad crowd erupted in laughter at Fred Scheer's Lumberjack Show.

Decked out in flannel and Carhartts, Shane Sabin, the most senior of the four lumberjacks in the show, chopped furiously at a log, trying to split it before Charlie Fenton, his competition in the show, split his. The two were competing in the "underhand chop" competition, just one of the events in the show that gives the lumberjacks a chance to show off their skills and highlight a sport that has been around for more than 150 years.

"It's a demonstration of how lumberjacks used harvest the lumber back in the 1800s," Sabin said.

Picture a lumberjack. Is he bearded? Wrinkled? Just out of the woods?

Think again.

Sabin and Fenton, along with Dave Sievert and Will Hoeschler, didn't just get out of the woods. In fact, three of the four are college students. For them, lumberjacking is just a summer gig.

"It's the best summer job you could ask for," said Fenton, 20.

Though they perform for just a few months of the year, these guys are in no way inexperienced. Fenton said they do about 10 shows per month during the 3 1/2 month summer season.

They all call Wisconsin home.

The guys say the show has been a hit at the Alaska State Fair.

"They eat up the jokes up here," Hoeschler said. "People get into it."

The annual Palmer appearance is the only show they put on outside of their home state, where being a lumberjack is a common pastime.

Sievert learned to log roll when he was four or five, he said. He attended log-rolling school and has been rolling ever since. He now works as a counselor at the school.

"Most kids play soccer or baseball. In Hayward (Wisc.), we logroll," Sievert said.

With four years under his belt, Shane Sabin is the most experienced of the four lumberjacks. Besides winning the underhand chop competition, he also was the fastest with a chain saw and comically carved a rabbit out of a log at Friday morning's show, giving it boogers and "accidentally" sawing off its ears.

"Making everyone laugh is pretty fun," he said. "I like doing the comedy."

Down the road from the lumberjack show, Byron Conoley stands next to a scale in his booth, "Fool the Guesser."

He and his wife, Cindy Conoley, took over the guessing booth and the next-door photo button booth three years ago. He has previously filled in for the official approximator of weight, but this is his first year as the booth's main guesser. .

For $2 or $5, Conoley will guess either your weight, age or birth month. If he's wrong by more than three pounds, two years or two months, you win a stuffed animal (smaller stuffed animal for $2, larger for $5).

Though he said he's mostly just guessing, he admitted that he's getting better at determining ages and weights. He said he doesn't know why, but most people at the fair aren't born in May or June, so he usually guesses August or January. As for weight, he knows how much he weighs and can compare himself to other men to guess their weight.

By the end of the day yesterday, he said he was guessing within his limit on either age or weight for about half of the people.

"You can size 'em up," he said.

But you have to be smart about it.

"For women, you always guess lighter," he said.


Find Kaylin Bettinger online at adn.com/contact/kbettinger or call 257-43492.

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