POTLATCH — Logging events in an Idaho timber town snagged the attention of young and old Saturday, including a determined 10-year-old boy who signed up for a “choker” race at the last minute.
As a crowd of onlookers watched, Carson Hatch scrambled over piles of spiky tree branches and demonstrated his ability to fasten a choker cable on the run.
“It was fun,” the breathless boy said after he finished, “but next time I’m going to wear pants.”
Hatch was one of several youngsters representing a new generation of logging enthusiasts at the Potlatch Days celebration. By the time these kids are competing as adults, organizer Matt Mitchell hopes to have revitalized the summertime tradition.
“I want a bigger logging show with more community involvement, better prizes and more participants,” said the 33-year-old father of four and employee of the family owned Bowles and Son Logging Co. “I see the tradition and culture slipping and slowly going away, and it bugs me.”
Mitchell, who comes from a family of loggers, has been involved with Potlatch Days since 2003. Wearing a green football jersey, he kept the action moving along as contestants sawed through logs, threw axes at a target and raced through an obstacle course.
“With the help of family, friends and the community, I think we can make this even better,” Mitchell said. “I’m hoping people who want to join the effort will contact me, the Lions Club or anyone on the planning committee.”
Held on the third Saturday of July, Potlatch Days is now in its 65th year. A Lions Club breakfast, parade, car show, fun run and live music draw hundreds of visitors to Scenic 6 Park each summer.
As they sat in the shade watching the logging show, lifelong Potlatch residents Fred Bryngelson, 63, and Laurie Hordemann, 49, said the weekend gathering is one of the highlights in their hometown.
“This is the one weekend of the summer you get to see everyone,” Hordemann said. “I enjoy meeting new people and seeing my old classmates. I just love it — being with people and being out here.”
Bryngelson, a retired sawmill worker, said a big carnival used to be part of the celebration, along with a premiere logging show at the old park and multiple logging trucks featured in the parade.
“I think I’ve only missed this one time, the whole time I’ve been alive,” he said.
One of his fondest memories is seeing two brothers, Oliver and Chet Heustis, compete in the crosscut saw competition years ago.
“You just couldn’t beat them,” Bryngelson said. “They were fun to watch and could saw faster than the chain saws, before the fancy ones came out.”
Les Schorzman, 82, of Viola, is a fan of the car show and logging events. His rare, red 1957 Chevrolet Cameo pickup was on display, along with other gleaming classics parked in a grassy area.
“I bought it in 1974 and restored it as original,” Schorzman said of the prized possession.
Another spectator said her favorite part of the day is attending the Lions Club breakfast and seeing longtime friends. She also enjoys the parade and was impressed with the fleet of fire department vehicles this year.
With the aroma of fresh sawdust in the air, Mitchell said he’s glad the logging show is still drawing contestants and entertaining people.
“It’s a tradition that needs to keep going,” he said. “I’m already thinking about next year.”
Kerri Sandaine may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2264. Follow her on Twitter @newsfromkerri.