By Lauren Francis
After giving a timber-cutting demonstration at last year’s inaugural Mountain Games, #2 nationally-ranked competitor Arden Cogar, Jr. returns this fall for the first “Lumberjack Championship,” at Heritage Farm. It will match him against his #1-rated cousin, Matt Cogar.
The championship will include a series of demonstrations in addition to timed, man-against-man competitions in four events. Pitting the nation’s top two lumberjacks against each other will add a level of excitement to the Games while celebrating the region’s Appalachian heritage.
“The people of Huntington are going to see the two best lumberjacking sports athletes in the U.S. and the top 10 in the world competing against each other,” says Arden, a resident of Hamlin.
“Because he’s my cousin, I’m implicitly proud of him,” Arden, 47, says of his championship-caliber relative. “He’s getting very difficult to beat, though. He’s getting better and I’m getting older.”
“Whenever you’re involved in timber sports you sort of marry into a larger family,” says Matt, 30-year-old holder of four consecutive Stihl Timbersports U.S. Professional Championship titles.
“The people we compete with are close friends, almost family. It makes it pretty exciting. Arden and I have helped each other along and helped each other with training. He helped me with gear; when I started I didn’t have much, like axes and stuff. I bought a couple axes from him and went from there.”
The championship matches and demos will be spaced at regular intervals throughout the Mountain Games, scheduled for September 23 at the Heritage Farm and Museum just west of Huntington.
The head-to-head events will include the underhanded chop, the standing block chop, one-man crosscut, and the “hot saw.”
Arden’s wife, Kristy, will help with the demonstrations. They will include one woman’s crosscut, woman’s underhanded chop, two-person crosscut, woman’s single-buck, and axe throwing.
Audy Perry, Executive Director of the Heritage Farm Foundation, expects the Lumberjack Championship to help swell attendance at the Farm.
“The Mountain Games represent a beautiful partnership with the Cabell Huntington Hospital Foundation, allowing families and visitors to enjoy a fascinating experience,” Perry said. He says the Lumberjack Championship will be a dynamic addition to the day’s events.
“It’s fun to see someone demonstrate these skills, but it’s a whole other thing to see people competing and racing to do it. It adds an element of speed and skill that’s exciting. The power these men have is amazing. It’s not light equipment or hollow wood. This is tough stuff,” said Perry.
Both Cogars are helping keep the tradition of lumberjacking alive even though nearly a century has passed since its heydays. The southern Appalachian Mountains became the scene of a major logging boom in the 1880s, which continued until the 1920s. Although the boom came to an end amid increased coal mining and federal restrictions placed on indiscriminate tree removal, both Cogars believe it’s important to keep our heritage alive.
Both Cogars would also like to see the Lumberjack Championship become an annual event at Mountain Games, with multiple teams involved.
“It’s fast, thrilling competition,” Matt says. “It can grow into however big the community wants to make it.”
Mountain Games allows families, businesses and other community organizations to join together and partake in 10 different activities in a fun competition style event. Some of the events included are Dead Eye Shooting, Tomahawk Throwing and Steel Walker; just to name a few of the 10 competitions in the games. There will also be in addition to the games and Lumberjack competition a Story Telling Competition presented by Tammy White and Farrell, White & Legg and Mountain Kids Fun Zone presented by River Cities Church and the YMCA. The Mountain Games Trail Run, presented by WV Mountain Trail Runners, begins at 9am from Heritage Farm with a 5 mile run through muddy terrain, steep hills forests and more.
“This truly is an event everyone can enjoy, young and old,” said Bradley Burck, Vice President of Cabell Huntington Hospital Foundation. “The money raised is all staying here in our area to help children and families of Hoops Family Children’s Hospital, so have a great time and help out.”
Mountain Games is Saturday, September 23, 2017 from 10am-4pm at Heritage Farm in Huntington, WV. Registration is now open and available for all of these events. To find out more information about how to participate and about the event visit: www.claimyourheritage.org or call Velma Workman at 304.526.6314.