Nathan Hodges, 31, who has won more consecutive “All-Around Logger” titles than anyone, will return to the 56th Annual Mid-Sierra Logger’s Jamboree in North Fork this weekend to defend that title.
Last year Hodges notched his fifth straight and seventh overall title. Jim Taylor, of Redding, sits atop the all-time list with 13 “All-Around Logger” titles.
Raised in North Fork most of his life, Hodges is a building contractor, and owns All Phase Construction.
Over the years Hodges has made the event somewhat of a family tradition encouraging more and more of his family to compete including his wife, Melissa, younger brother Jerry, his mother, Cathy, father, Pat, as well as his step brother.
Hodges prides himself in placing at the top of every event and tallied most of his overall points by placing first in six of the nine events last year — ax throw, choker setting, stock power saw, hand chopping, birling and the Jack and Jill competition where he competed with his mother for the first time. His favorite event is the hand chopping because it brings sense of danger and excitement unmatched by any of the the other Jamboree events.
This will be his 12th Jamboree, and he says it’s like riding a bike.
“I’ve been doing it for so long I just get out there and everything comes back to me quickly,” Hodges said.
He also enjoys the ax throw because it takes a lot of skill, proper technique and strength.
Two day event
The jamboree features Saturday’s Pro-Am competitions, horseshoe tournament, parade, community dinner, and a night of dancing under the stars during which time the new Jamboree Queen will be crowned. The Pro-Am events consist of a logging amateur and a professional, teaming up to compete in four events: axe throw, choker setting, stock power saw and double hand bucking.
The jamboree parade begins at 5 p.m. Saturday, traveling down Main Street from La Cabana restaurant, to Town Hall where the community dinner ($10 adults- $5 children) will be held.
The gates at Recreation Center will open at 8 p.m. for the barbecue and Wood Choppers Ball. At 8:30 p.m., the 2014 Jamboree Queen will be announced. Tickets cost $10 per person at the gate or $5 presale.
Sunday starts with a 7-10 a.m. pancake breakfast. The competition starts at noon including tree felling and log birling. The Axe throw, a crowd favorite, has contestants throwing a double-head axe at a 36 inch target 20 feet away. Object is to hit the can of beer in the middle of the target, spraying brew in all directions.
Men’s and Women’s Hot Power Saw is one of the crowd’s favorite events. There contestants saw up to a 40-inch log using any saw that originally was a chain saw and has only one engine attached to the bar. These modified saws generally run on high power fuel, often from a mix of methanol and nitro which the contestant supplies.
Tree Felling is unique to this jamboree. The object is to cut down a 30 foot pole with such precision it lands on a beer can. Accuracy, not speed, is the key.
Log birling is traditionally the last event of the day, where a logger tries to balance on a floating log for a longer time than his competitor. The contest is held in the swimming hole which North Fork children enjoy during summer. The jamboree raises the funds to provide the free summer program at the Rec Center for area children.
The stock power saw competition uses identical saws with contestants attempting to be the fastest to cut through the 28-inch log.
The Jack and Jill double hand bucking is man-woman teams attempting to be first to saw through an 18-inch log using a standard double-handles bucking saw.
The popular horseshoe tournament will begin at noon, and all Mountain Area horseshoe players are encouraged to enter.
Pinkerton’s are Grand Marshals
Craig and Sheri Pinkerton are this year’s Grand Marshals of the Logger’s Jamboree. Long time North Fork residents, Craig, retired from the U.S. Forest Service, and Sheri have both participated in the Jamboree ax throw competition - Craig for 10 years.
Pinkerton retired from the Forest Service where he started in 1973 as a firefighter in the Sierra National Forest.
“We first became involved in the Jamboree in 2005,” Craig said. “That’s the year our youngest daughter, Janae, was crowned Loggers Jamboree Queen. Starting in 2007, Sheri volunteered to chair the queen contest and did so for the next three years. All four of our children became involved in timber sports events after that and it became a family adventure.”
Pinkerton’s daughter’s, MacKenzie Pinkerton-Kish (and her husband Shane Kish), and Ashley Pinkerton, will all be in the ax throwing competition this weekend.
The Pinkerton’s said they were surprised at being selected this year’s Grand Marshals.
“The thing that has always stood out to us has been the amazing show of support competitors and spectators have given us,” Craig said. “We are very proud and honored to be selected Grand Marshals.”
In recent years, the Pinkerton’s have started their own business (Precision Axes LLC) - crafting beautiful handmade axes and hatchets - after realizing that almost all of the throwing axes used in Jamboree were foreign made and expensive.
“We also recognized that there are many young people that want to participate but cannot afford the equipment or the entry fees,” Craig said earlier in a feature story in the Star. “Our goal has been and still is to get more people involved in the North Fork Jamboree and to preserve the skills and traditions of the past. Our main focus is making sure that everyone who wants to participate is able to. Over the years we have sponsored several local competitors with entry fees, equipment, t-shirts, and a cheering section.”