Len Nielson surprised many last year when, as a first-time competitor at the Annual Mid-Sierra Loggers Jamboree in North Fork, he defeated perennial champion and hometown favorite Nathan Hodges by a single point.
In this year’s competition, from July 2-3 at the North Fork Recreation Center, Nielson said he plans to keep that crown.
“I think I’m good enough to win it again,” said Nielson, a Cal Fire forester with 21 years of logging experience. “I mean, I’m not going to just give it away to him. I’m very competitive, this isn’t going to be a handout or something like that.”
Nielson, 44, won the title of All-Around Logging Champion with wins in the stock power saw, hand chopping, and Jack & Jill double hand bucking with his daughter Rebekka.
Hodges, owner of All Phase Construction, said spectators - some 2,000 attended last year - can look forward to a show as he and Nielson face off.
“Winning is definitely the goal,” said Hodges, who won four years in a row before Nielson’s arrival. “I like to be really confident. My plan is to win.”
Despite each man’s desire to reign as champion, both Nielson and Hodges said they’re friendly competitors, and look forward to any other participants that join the fray as well.
“It’s all about having a good time and being competitive,” Nielson said. “But I mean, it’s not so intense like I’m out there sharpening my axes every day in preparation or something.”
In memory of Frank Verduzco
Cathey Thornburg of the North Fork Boosters said this year’s jamboree will be held in honor of Frank Verduzco, who served 43 years at Madera County Fire Station 11 in North Fork.
“He was involved in scorekeeping for us for many years and helped with the jamboree, while also competing himself,” Thornburg said. “So we wanted to honor him, definitely.”
All proceeds from the loggers jamboree goes to the boosters organization summer youth programs, Thornburg said.
This year’s Grand Marshal is Bill Vanderburgh, a lifetime resident of North Fork who retired from the Madera County Road Department.
Vanderburgh has been involved in the area’s logging industry for decades, and regularly helps water the recreation center to keep dust under control, Thornburg said.
“He’s just a huge help and we chose him for all his hard work,” Thornburg said.
Starting Saturday at 10 a.m., the jamboree begins at the recreation center (33507 Road 230) with its Pro-Am competitions. 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, or $15 per couple.
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. Presale tickets are available for Sunday’s events at $2 a person.
Events throughout jamboree competitions include everything from axe throwing to tree felling.
Details: www.northforkboosters.org, Cathey Thornburg, (559) 676-7766.