Hodges retains as champion All-Around Logger at Loggers Jamboree in North Fork

Nathan “Nate” Hodges saws down a tree for a tree falling competition at the 58th Annual Mid-Sierra Loggers Jamboree in North Fork last weekend. Hodges was crowned champion All-Around Logger for the second straight year as he won with 46 points.
Nathan “Nate” Hodges saws down a tree for a tree falling competition at the 58th Annual Mid-Sierra Loggers Jamboree in North Fork last weekend. Hodges was crowned champion All-Around Logger for the second straight year as he won with 46 points. Sierra Star

For the second straight year, Nathan Hodges has earned the title of the Mountain Area’s top logger.

Hodges was crowned champion All-Around Logger at the 58th Annual Mid-Sierra Loggers Jamboree in North Fork last weekend, as the hometown favorite scored his ninth title win by more than 10 points.

Hodges won with a score of 46 points, including first-place finishes in the ax throw, hand chopping, and the Jack and Jill saw with Lani Owen and double bucking with Madera County District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler.

He was followed by Len Nielson at 32.5 points, and Bill Davis at 16. Hodges, who had won four championships in a row before Nielson won by a single point in 2015, said he felt like he’s on another hot streak.

“This feels great,” said Hodges, owner of All Phase Construction in North Fork. “My goal is to win every year, that’s my mindset. It’s always a ton of fun, I look forward to it all year.”

Hodges, who has begun competing in similar logging events out of state, said he got off to a slow start when he lost to Nielson in choker setting, his “go-to event,” to start the pro events.

“I lost that one to Len so it got me a little worried,” Hodges said. “Sometimes, if you slip up a little bit, it’s real easy to lose. But it makes for great competition with some really great competitors.”

The Hodges family has a strong history of competing in the jamboree. Nathan’s father Patrick, mother Cathey, brother Jerry, and sister Amanda also competed this year, with Cathey winning both the ladies power saw and ladies ax throw.

Wheeler said it was great to earn a win in what would likely be his final time competing at the jamboree.

“Well I’ll be 75 in August, so to win a contest like this at this age, I don’t think anybody has ever won that way,” Wheeler said. “I had a great partner in Nate. I just wanted one more win before I completely retired. I was a five time champion when I was younger, so it’s good to show the kids I can still do it.”

Nielson took first place in choker setting and tree falling, where competitors attempted to crush a stack of nearby beer cans by sawing down a 20-foot tree.

Other first place finishers included: Bill Davis in the stock power saw and Mike Morrow in the hot power saw during pro events on July 2.

In the pro-am competitions July 1, Nate Hodges and Justin Ross were crowned the overall winners, while Ryan Hough won the junior ax throw and Nate Hodges won both the Jason Taylor Ax Throw and the Jackpot Working Saw competitions.

Jamboree raises $27,000

North Fork Boosters President Cathey Thornburg said the two-day competition, held at the North Fork Recreation Center, saw some of its best ticket sales in history.

Final numbers weren’t available, but Thornburg estimated the event, sponsored by the boosters, brought in more than 2,000 spectators and raised more than $27,000, with all proceeds going to youth summer programs at the rec center.

“In pre-sale alone we did almost $20,000 in ticket sales,” Thornburg said. “The overall numbers of what everybody sold was $27,000. That doesn’t include sales at the gate, or concession stands. We probably brought in around $50,000. It was a really good year. And it’s such a great program to help support the rec center and keep it running for everyone.”

Guests enjoyed all the logging events, as well as numerous vendor booths, a parade, the Tim Punkin Memorial Horseshoe Pitching Tournament, North Fork Lions Club Pancake Breakfast, Wood Choppers Ball, a dinner and coronation of Little Logger Curtis Hale and Little Princess Emma Sweeney, and the crowning of the Jamboree Queen Kate Hough, whose family has a long history of logging. Hough earned the crown by selling $11,300 in tickets, Thornburg said.

Wheeler said the jamboree was a huge success.

“The loggers jamboree is the biggest and probably most important event for our community,” Wheeler said. “The rec center is a great place for our children and citizens to go to in the summer for all its programs ... it also provides economic stimulus for local businesses.”

Claudia Box, who founded North Fork’s Box Feed in 1980 with her late husband Bern, was Grand Marshal.

Details: (559) 877-7700,

Full results

Pro Events (July 3)

1st through 4th place results

Choker: Len Nielson, Nate Hodges, Bill Davis, Jerry Hodges

Ax throw: Nate Hodges, Jessie Hutchins, Mike Morrow, Bob Maldonado

Stock power saw: Bill Davis, Nate Hodges, George Stanford, Len Nielson

Double bucking: Nate Hodges and Tom Wheeler, Pat and Jerry Hodges, Len Nielson and Mark Holland, Mike Morrow and Jesse Hutchins

Hand chopping: Nate Hodges, Len Nielson, Jerry Hodges

Tree falling: Len Nielson, Nate Hodges, Jerry Hodges, Mike Morrow

Hot power saw: Mike Morrow, Nate Hodges, George Stafford, Justin Hamilton

Ladies power saw: Cathey Hodges, Christina McDonald, Kittie Lavell, Lani Owen

Ladies ax throw: Cathey Hodges, Lani Owen, Rachel Rex Jennifer Thornburg

Jack and Jill: Nate Hodges and Lani Owen, Len Nielson and Kelley Lozano, Jerry and Cathy Hodges, Pat and Amanda Hodges

Pro-am events (July 2)

Overall: Nathan Hodges and Justin Ross, Pete Curtis and Carl Minton, Bill Davis and Nick Garrett, Jessie Hutchins senior and Jessie Hutchins junior.

Junior ax throw: Ryan Hough, Kaia Owen, Jaclyn Curtis, Nick Coleman

Jason Taylor Ax Throw: Nate Hodges, Mike Morrow, Jerry Hodges, Keegan Mackey

Jackpot Working Saw: Nate Hodges, Jessie Hutchins, Mike Morrow, Jerry Hodges