MARYSVILLE — Lumberjacks, blacksmiths, wool-spinners, folk musicians and competitive pie-eaters of all ages were among the crowds that thronged Ebey Waterfront Park March 19, as Marysville celebrated its 125th birthday.
Father-and-son lumberjacks David Moses Sr. and Jr. were edged out by the intergenerational team of Jeff Skirvin and Gordy Maul through successive rounds of axe-throwing, underhand and standing block chopping, and hot, stock and double buck sawing.
Both Moses Sr. and Maul have been competing in timber sports since 1972, and were willing to stand on the quality of their woodwork, literally, during the springboard chop competition, which requires lumberjacks to make their way up trees by standing on boards that they’ve chopped holes for.
All four men have traveled the world to compete as lumberjacks — Moses Sr. to New Zealand and Jr. to Germany, Skirvin to the Netherlands and Maul to Indonesia — but the skills they demonstrated were familiar to those who have studied the history of logging in the Marysville area, albeit with a few key differences.
“It’s easy to make bullseyes in your back yard, but it’s a little tougher when everyone is watching you,” Skirvin told his audience in the stands.
Meanwhile, in another area of the celebration, Dave Dysart and Stu Stern welcomed onlookers as they practiced their craft, which was admittedly less showy than hitting a soda can at the center of a tree trunk target.
Before they retired, Dysart was a rocket engineer and Stern was a computer scientist, but their work as blacksmiths brought them together for a stint at the San Juan Island National Historical Park.
“I wanted to do something that was a little less heavy on science,” Stern said.
“It’s not engineering, but I’m still having fun working with steel,” Dysart said. “As a farmer in the old days, you had to learn how to be a blacksmith as well, because he had to repair your own tools.”
With their small, portable forge, Dysart and Stern created metal hangers for potted plants, twisting the heated bars before cooling them in water.
“The twists were strictly for ornamentation,” Stern said. “This was a style that was popular during the Civil War. Blacksmiths now are incredible artists, but their work was much simpler back then.”
Vendor Arlene Gowing came all the way from Lincoln City, Ore., to spin her yarn at the historical event.
“I used to watch the ladies at the state fairs do this, so I decided to take lessons,” Gowing said. “Once you learn how to relax, everything else about it becomes easy.”
Gowing laughed as she admitted to being a “SABLE,” or someone with “Stash Available Beyond Life Expectancy.”
She explained that the style of spinning wheel she was using, a “castle wheel,” was so named because it dated back to the castles of the Medieval era.
“It was invented in the East, and came to Europe through traffic on the spice routes,” Gowing said. “What I really hope people learn is how much time and effort it took to create cloth. A lot of kids think clothing just comes from the store. Creating your own clothes teaches you to appreciate what you have, and it’s a meditative exercise besides.”
A far less contemplative art was the day’s pie-eating contests, which ultimately drew the Strawberry Festival Royalty, along with an assortment of kids and adults.
“I like apples,” said 12-year-old Chase Chigbrow, the winner of the kids’ division during one of the four rounds, after polishing off his apple pie. “I’m a champion eater at home, too.”
Elizabeth Heideman entered the contest with her daughter Savannah, 10, but in spite of both getting plenty of marionberry pie on their faces, it was the elder Heideman who was named the adult champion.
“I’ve been preparing for this my whole life,” Heideman laughed. “My grandma always made pie for us kids, and if you didn’t get a piece ASAP, you didn’t get any pie.”
Heideman described her winning strategy as “chewing through the crust, straight down the middle, then slurping up the filling like a hoover.”
After musical performances by Conner Worley and Tiller’s Folly, the day’s festivities ended with a brief fireworks display over the water.