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Buena Vista Logging Days celebrates Northwoods history

Brett Schussman rode around the festival on a “go-devil,” a wooded cradle designed to haul out one log. Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer

Molly Miron

Special to the Pioneer

BEMIDJI — The squeak of bobsled runners on snow, the frosty snorts of draft horses, the whine of a chainsaw carving a tree stump — these are some of the sights and sounds visitors will experience during the 31st annual Buena Vista Logging Days.

The events will begin at 8 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, and continue until 2 p.m. following the 1 p.m. Tall Timberjack Ceremony honoring loggers and teamsters in the Lumberjack Hall of Fame.

“First thing in the morning will be the breakfast and the sleigh rides,” said Wendell Knutson, a teamster and member of the Go and Whoa Harness Club.

Bemidji Lions Club members will serve the flapjacks in the Blacksmith Shop, where local musicians will entertain all day.

“Log loading’s at 10 a.m. and the parade’s at 12:30 p.m.,” Knutson said, ticking off Logging Days activities.

Suzanne Thomas, daughter and granddaughter of Logging Days founders Earle and Leonard Dickinson, said she is looking forward to a pleasant winter’s day for the events — 20 degrees and sunny would be perfect, she said. However, Knutson reminded families to dress both adults and children in warm clothes for a day in the outdoors.

The log loading tests the spirit, strength and teamwork of horses and drivers to pull the logs onto a high-piled sleigh. Then the parade gives teamsters the opportunity to show off their prized horses as they circle the Buena Vista Logging Village square.

“I just enjoy horses,” said Knutson. “I don’t know anybody in the (Go and Whoa) club that doesn’t think the world of their team. Everybody’s got the ‘best’ team. They treat them like family.”

Knutson will bring his team of blond Belgian mares, Dot and Molly. He said he expects about 18 teams to be available for sleigh rides, one the most popular activities of Logging Days.

Knutson, calling himself one of the “old-timers,” said he made his way through Bemidji High School logging and started working in Leonard Dicksinson’s sawmill in 1955. “I rode the carriage in the sawmill. That brings in the logs in to be sawed,” he said.

In the Hall of Fame, Knutson will also demonstrate the hand signals workers used in the deafening noise of the sawmill to indicate the way the logs should be presented to get the most boards out of them. The timber industry is still an important part of the northern Minnesota economy and culture, but logging has changed immeasurably since the times Logging Days depicts, he said. The Hall of Fame shows many of the artifacts and tools of the past.

Logging Days participants will park in a special area directed by members of the Bemidji Noon Rotary Club. They will then take a sleigh ride to the Wanigan where they will purchase their entry, which includes a souvenir button honoring a teamster or logger. (The identity of the honoree is kept secret until the special day.)

The cost is $6 for ages 13 and older, $4 for 6 to 12 and free for 5 and younger. The family rate is $25. Buena Vista Logging Village is located 12 miles north of Bemidji on Beltrami County Road 15 (Irvine Avenue in the city.

Children’s activities will include wood carving with Monte Draper in the Caboose from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

They can try their accuracy with a lariat under the guidance of Jesse Branch of the Open Range Ropers. A Boy Scout troop will oversee the tomahawk throw. Children can also learn to use a crosscut saw, vie for prizes in Lumberjack Costume Contest and search the village for answers to the Lumberjack Treasure Hunt. For example, some of the 2013 treasure hunt clues included asking blacksmith Joe Hamilton how many years he had been working the bellows, the name of a horse breed in the parade and tool identification.

“It’s a learning experience for them, as well as fun,” Thomas said.

Other Logging Days featured attractions include the art exhibit in the Milwaukee Railroad car, blacksmithing demonstrations, First City Square Dancers, Linda Simonson spinning wool into yarn and Bev Knutson’s famous Logger Stew served in the Chalet. “A designated sleigh will bring them over and drop them off,” Thomas said.