For the second year in a row, German Fest will host the STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® U.S. Championships, where top lumberjacks from all over the country will compete to take home the championship title in either men’s, women’s or a collegiate level. The competition takes place July 27-July 29 at the BMO Harris Pavilion at the Henry Maier Festival Park (200 N Harbor Dr.) during German Fest.
Now, for those of you who, like me, are extremely unfamiliar with the sport, trust me when I say it is definitely an exciting act you won’t want to miss. The male professional athletes will compete in six different disciplines to claim the title: the spring board, the stock saw, the standing block, the underhand chop, the single buck and the hot saw. And the women’s division consists of the underhand chop, the stock saw and the single buck. Every discipline happens so quickly, with such precision, that you would never know some of these athletes have been training since they were 12 years old.
“The only problem I think is that we all make it look super easy,” said athlete Erin LaVoie.
Matt Cogar, five-time reigning U.S. Champion (and the first American to win five years in a row) has been practicing since his first competition in 1999. As a lumberjack’s son, Cogar grew up interested in participating. When he discovered a competition for kids 18 and under, he jumped at the opportunity. “A couple months before, I was like ‘Dad I wanna chop in that, can I do it?’” he said. Cogar has competed in competitions ever since and never looked back. The prize money he won even paid for his college tuition and books.
LaVoie also says that her decision to compete was more of a whim, as she discovered the sport in college, “stumbled in, and that was it,” she said.
Competitions happen all over the world, but Milwaukee still claims the honor of hosting the U.S. Championships for the second year. “We really feel at home here,” said Roger Phelps, corporate communications manager. He says the venue itself is perfect for the athletes, calling it “a massive, beautiful stage.”
Both LaVoie and Cogar agree that this U.S. Championship in Milwaukee is a big deal. “Everything else is kind of ‘been there done that.’ They’re amazing, but I’ve won them all. This is the first one that I haven’t won yet, so this is that for me,” says LaVoie. Cogar even broke the Underhand Chop U.S. record last year and says he’s hopeful not only to bring a sixth championship trophy home, but also to continue smashing records. “If I broke it last year, what can happen next?”
Speaking of bringing home the championship trophy, the entire trophy series was handcrafted and designed by a Milwaukeean himself. John Hallett, of Hallett Iron Works, began working with STIHL TIMBERSPORTS® last year for the trophy set and designed a brand new series just for this competition. “They wanted to include a chainsaw chain and I kind of thought a beer stein look [would be appropriate] for German Fest,” Hallett said.
Although the competition will definitely be fierce for those cherished trophies, all the athletes are excited to participate. “I’m going for a sixth [championship], but I’m really just having fun with it and seeing what happens,” said Cogar.
Even if you’ve never heard of the sport, the best of the best will take the stage. “If you want to see the best of the sport from the United States, they’re all right here,” said LaVoie.
As for after the competition, the athletes are excited to explore Milwaukee. Cogar even jokes that last year he felt shorted because he only grabbed one beer after winning. “I’ll probably try to get back out in the crowd and have a couple more. It’s an amazing city, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing it again,” he said.