Community fun and lumberjack plaid highlight Winterfest in Kagawong

Alice and volunteer Barb Erskine carry “logs” to try their hand at log stacking. photo by Lori Thompson

KAGAWONG—Residents of Kagawong answered the call and wore their finest lumberjack plaid for the village’s annual Winterfest festivities. Lumberjack themed activities, décor and a special display courtesy of the Billings Old Mill Heritage Centre offered a salute to Kagawong’s logging heritage at last Saturday’s event.

Chilly temperatures didn’t prevent the community from enjoying an opportunity to have some fun in the snow while meeting up with old and new friends and warming up in the Park Centre with hot chocolate and delicious treats from the Kagawong Cookhouse.

Volunteers from the Billings Fire Department were on hand to talk about community safety and display some of their firefighting equipment including a chainsaw that cuts through metal, a cordless jaws of life device and their new pride and joy, a special nozzle that works in conjunction with a thermal imaging camera to locate hot spots. The technology can save homes by focusing water in specific locations; it also saves lives as firefighters can work from outside of the structure.

Perennial favourite Jason Quinlan was there with several of his Siberian huskies and dogsled. Unfortunately, ice and snow conditions prevented a dogsled running exhibition. “Neither the dogs nor the sled would be able to stop safely,” Mr. Quinlan explained. The dogs were harnessed and Mr. Quinlan demonstrated how the sled would be hooked up and operated. People enjoyed greeting the dogs and asked questions about everything from ages, temperaments, feeding and how they get along.

“They get along like people do,” Mr. Quinlan said. “Some get along better with others.” He pairs them on the harness and in their yard accordingly. “Some need to move all the time and some are calmer.” Mr. Quinlan has 13 purebred Siberians and two purebred Alaskan huskies. Alaskans are bred for speed while Siberians have been bred for endurance. Mr. Quinlan formerly raced his team in races up to 30 miles but tends to stick with exhibitions and shorter, personal runs these days.

Lumberjack-themed activities included log sawing, log rolling and log stacking. Snowshoes were available to try out and the ice rink was perfectly smooth for some family skating and hockey fun thanks to community volunteers and with a little cooperation from Mother Nature. Snow Mountain was quite icy due to freezing rain earlier in the week but it didn’t stop adventurous sliders.

A small crowd could be found surrounding volunteer Jim Chambers as he boiled maple syrup for taffy making. Mr. Chambers showed off his borrowed lumberjack caulk boots (minus the spikes) and his heavy wool mackinaw pants. Lumberjacks would wear the same pair of pants throughout the logging season, he noted. They often didn’t have gloves and were poorly paid.

Inside the Park Centre, saws and other hand tools were part of a display that informed visitors about local sawmills and highlighted camp cooks. Cooks were important in logging camps; a bad cook could lead to loggers moving to another camp. Loggers consumed an average of 8,000 calories per day for the stamina to work their 10 hour shifts. No talking was allowed during meals but these were generally finished within 12 minutes.

Kelly from the Canadian Red Cross provided information about emergency aid and available volunteer opportunities. She noted that many municipalities are not aware of the services provided by the Red Cross, including assistance with emergency response planning or the ability to enhance an existing plan by working with the Red Cross. Individuals or municipalities interested in learning more about Red Cross can call their local office.

The mouth-watering smells of homemade chili and Burt Farm sausages enticed people in from the cold and recreation committee members served up coffee, tea, hot chocolate and some sweet treats. The day finished up with a euchre tournament downstairs.