Philipsburg

Participants get glimpse of life as a lumberjack at Black Mo’s summer fest

David Kessling helps his daughter, Alyssa Kessling, 4, hammer nails into a log for the nail pound competition during the 32nd annual Friends of Black Moshannon Summer Festival Saturday, July 22, 2017 at Black Moshannon State Park.
David Kessling helps his daughter, Alyssa Kessling, 4, hammer nails into a log for the nail pound competition during the 32nd annual Friends of Black Moshannon Summer Festival Saturday, July 22, 2017 at Black Moshannon State Park. psheehan@centredaily.com

On Saturday morning, I briefly turned into a lady lumberjack — well, almost.

With the help of park manager Jared Fencil, I got to try my hand at log rolling, log crosscutting, ax throwing, nail driving and more at this year’s summer festival at Black Moshannon State Park.

The two-day festival, which includes Lumber Jack and Jill competitions on Saturday and a beach party on Sunday, was established more than three decades ago to celebrate the history of the park, which was once dominated by the lumber industry and managed by lumberjacks.

“This is gonna be fun,” Fencil said enthusiastically.

And it was.

The first event, called “spit ‘n Thar,” required participants to eat watermelon and spit the seeds as far as possible.

It wasn’t much of a logging event, which might have been the reason why it ended up as my best event, as I spit the seed a distance of 19 feet, 4 inches.

Then we hit the pine cone toss.

I always considered myself to be a pretty good athlete, but was proved wrong Saturday as I couldn’t even accurately toss pine cones into the carved-out log.

Of five pine cones, I only made two. I blame the wind.

The little girl in front of me, Sadie Weaver, 6, made all five. No sweat.

Fencil got four, and was also given a bonus point for participation.

Not bad.

Horseshoes was relatively easy, despite not scoring any points, as was ax toss and the nail pounding activities, which took me about 15.13 seconds to hammer five large nails into a pine tree.

With every hammer of the nail, the tree spit back sap. In just seconds, the goggles I was wearing were dotted with the juice from the tree.

Fencil said that all the trees, mostly pine, used for the logging activities came from different parts of the park. The log used for the nail-driving activity was the same log used at the fest for the past five years.

“If we flip it over, you will see a side full of old nails,” Fencil said.

The hard part

The competition started to get more difficult when we got into the log-rolling event.

We were the only adults in line, and were set up at a log-rolling station that required us to use peavey tools to roll the log from one checkpoint and back, all while making sure we turned the log around at least one time before hitting the finish line.

That’s where the sweating was at its peak, and my arms were starting to hurt. I think Fencil was probably getting tired, too.

He stood on one side of the log while I was at the other, simultaneously rolling the log to each checkpoint. When the time to turn the log came, I stood on one side pushing the log while he was pushing it in the opposite direction from the other end of the log.

In total, it took us 3 minutes and 11 seconds.

Another difficult event was the crosscutting activity, which took Fencil and I less than a minute and a half to cut through a 12-inch diameter pine tree.

The biggest tip I got was to pull, not push, the crosscut saw. And at the end, I even got to take home the slice of wood, known as a tree cookie.

“It sure gives you an appreciation for what they used to do,” Fencil said about loggers who worked in the industry before modern technology.

The festival is annually sponsored by the Friends of Black Moshannon, which helps raise money for the park.

Fencil said the next project for the park is to install a playground near the beach area. So far, they have the playground structure, but still need to purchase landscape items.

The goal is to start assembling the playground in the fall.

Britney Milazzo: 814-231-4648, @M11azzo

Black Moshannon State Park summer fest

When: Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Black Moshannon State Park, 4216 Beaver Road, Philipsburg

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