Axe throwers and tree fallers prepare for Loggers Jamboree this weekend in North Fork

Ryan Hough, left, and sister Katelyn Hough are looking forward to competing in the 58th Annual Mid-Sierra Loggers Jamboree, July 1 and 2 at the North Fork Recreation Center.
Ryan Hough, left, and sister Katelyn Hough are looking forward to competing in the 58th Annual Mid-Sierra Loggers Jamboree, July 1 and 2 at the North Fork Recreation Center. Submitted photo

Kate and Ryan Hough say logging is in their blood.

Their grandfather, Ron Pennington, worked at the North Fork lumber mill before it closed in 1995, and their uncle, John Sweeney, was a choker setter and landing man for both Columbia Helicopters and area logger Paul Vining.

That may mean an advantage when they enter the popular 58th Annual Mid-Sierra Loggers Jamboree at North Fork Recreation Center July 1 and 2, they said, though they spoke with tongue entirely in cheek.

“I actually never threw an axe until last month,” laughed Kate, 15. “But Ryan and I have always wanted to try the axe throw so it was great to have an opportunity.”

The two demonstrated their potentially latent abilities for axe throwing - think darts but with hatchets - at Oakhurst equipment supplier Choppers last month.

Ryan, 14, said he nailed a bullseye on his third throw. For Kate? It only took two.

“I was really surprised,” Kate said. “I mean, I was really excited. I’d never done that before so it was definitely an exciting moment.”

“Justin Wilson, our friend who won last year, was really an inspiration,” Ryan added. “I think he really got us into it.”

The two will join a slew of competitors throughout the jamboree, which benefits the North Fork Recreation Center and its summer programs. At least eleven logging events will be on the schedule, from tree falling to the power saw and birling, where loggers try to balance on a floating log in a nearby creek.

“I’ve always loved that event,” Kate said. “It’s really fun to watch people roll the log and try to stay up, or fall. When we used to watch it growing up, sometimes they’d leave the log so we could play on it and try to be like the competitors. It’s always a really fun experience.”

Kate has another family tie as well, as she’ll run for Jamboree Queen, a title her mother vied for in 1987.

“To see my kids compete at the jamboree is really sweet,” Deborah said. “We just love the jamboree and the rec center, we want to see them continue to grow.”

As a lifeguard at the North Fork Recreation Center, as well as a varsity cheerleader, JV volleyball player, and recently elected chapter officer for Future Farmers of America at Minarets High School, Katelyn said she couldn’t wait to help raise money for the center while having fun.

“I think everyone should go to the jamboree because it’s just a really fun experience,” Kate said. “Most people can’t say they’ve been to one of any kind. But North Fork is one of those places where you can go to a family friendly event and see loggers perform their craft, which isn’t usually done anymore. You get to experience the traditions of the logging industry. It’s just great.”

Minarets will also have three concession booths at the jamboree to raise money for its athletics programs.

Hodges to defend logging title

Nathan Hodges, champion All-Around Logger from last year’s jamboree, is also looking forward to defending his title after his runaway victory last year.

Starting Saturday at 8 a.m., the jamboree begins at the recreation center (33507 Road 230) with its Pro-Am competitions at 10 a.m. Also during the day will be a horseshoe competition at noon, a parade at 5 p.m., dinner and coronation of Little Logger and Little Princess at the North Fork Town Hall at 6 p.m., and coronation of the Jamboree Queen during the Wood Choppers Ball at 8 p.m.

The dinner will be held at the North Fork Town Hall (33060 Road 228) and is $10 per person.

On Sunday, starting at 7 a.m., the jamboree will host a North Fork Lions Club Pancake Breakfast at the town hall for $7 a person. The main logging events open at the rec center at 10 a.m., with all competitions beginning at noon.

Entrance tickets to both days of the jamboree are $5 a person, and free for children ages 12 and under. Presale tickets are available for Sunday’s events at $2 a person.

This year’s Grand Marshal is Claudia Box, who founded Box Feed in 1980 with her late husband Bern.

Details: www.northforkboosters.org, Cathey Thornburg, (559) 676-7766.

Details: (559) 877-7700,www.northforkboosters.org.