OXFORD — Like a lot of competitive woodsmen, Pete Drown of Livermore cuts wood in his day job. He runs his own business, cutting firewood and logging for private clients.
On weekends, work becomes play. He and employee Corey Towers, 22, compete in events such as log rolling, splitting and the underhand block chop. On Friday, they competed at the Oxford County Fair.
It was Woodsmen's Day, where rugged men and women from around the Northeast gathered to see who could chop and saw the fastest. According to the announcer, Matt Galambos, logging competitions started in the 19th century at logging camps, where men worked all winter.
Bragging about who was the best woodsman led to competitions at the logging camps, which led to logging camps competing against one another. That tradition carries on at fairs now.
“It's a lot of fun," Towers said. He and David Lowell, also 22, are graduates of the forestry program at Mt. Blue High School in Farmington. Lowell, who works at Isaacson Lumber in Livermore Falls, said he prefers the log roll and has won first place.
Towers said he'll be at the Fryeburg Fair, and possibly others before then. “I do pretty much every one,” he said.
Drown, who has been logging for years, is new to woodsmen's competitions. He said he has yet to win first place in his two years, but he's working toward it. “There's a lot of good competition,” he said.
Many have been competing for decades.
Irene Harvey of Cabot, Vt., has a tattoo of a bow saw on her upper arm along with the years 2006, 2007 and 2008. Each of those years she set a new women's world record in competitive bow sawing. She said she's been competing for 18 or 19 years.
Harvey has set two new records since, including a double cut record of 15.15 seconds last week at the Clinton Lions Agricultural Fair in Clinton. She said she needs to find a way to keep adding years. “I don't want to have the years going all the way down my arm,” she said.
Harvey learned how to cut wood as a child from her grandfather, who cut wood for a living. Now she works as a special education teacher in Vermont but averages about a fair per weekend between June and October.
On Friday, she didn't quite make her record, cutting through an 8-by-8 beam twice in 16.14 seconds. It was still good enough for first place, however, beating the second-place finisher by six seconds.
When she finished, a spectator asked for one of the sections of the beam she'd cut. He asked her to sign it, and she obliged. Later, Harvey said that was a first.
The Oxford County Fair concludes Saturday with a full day of events, including a $10,000 purse harness race at 1:30 p.m. and a performance by country music singer LeAnn Rimes at 8 p.m. Tickets are $5 Saturday.