Women find niche in woodsman’s competition

Posted Oct. 07, 2011, at 5 a.m.
Julie Miller of Branchport, N.Y., muscles through a 10-inch log during the crosscut saw competition at the Woodman's Field Day at the Fryeburg Fair.
Julie Miller of Branchport, N.Y., muscles through a 10-inch log during the crosscut saw competition at the Woodman's Field Day at the Fryeburg Fair.
More than 6,000 spectators and 193 competitors stand at attention during the national anthem to begin the 44th annual Woodman's Field Day at the Fryeburg Fair.
More than 6,000 spectators and 193 competitors stand at attention during the national anthem to begin the 44th annual Woodman's Field Day at the Fryeburg Fair.
Laurette Russell of New Gloucester blows on her fire in a race to get a can of soapy water to boil in the tea boil contest. Referees keep stand by with stopwatches. Competitions are based on traditional tasks performed by loggers in days gone by.
Laurette Russell of New Gloucester blows on her fire in a race to get a can of soapy water to boil in the tea boil contest. Referees keep stand by with stopwatches. Competitions are based on traditional tasks performed by loggers in days gone by.
Allison Melton of Bangor swings in the underhand chop competition during the Woodman's Field Day at the Fryeburg Fair. Melton is a fine arts graduate student at the University of Maine at Orono.
Allison Melton of Bangor swings in the underhand chop competition during the Woodman's Field Day at the Fryeburg Fair. Melton is a fine arts graduate student at the University of Maine at Orono.
Defending champion Nancy Zalewski of Manitowoc, Wis., looks up after winning the bow saw competion during the Woodman's Field Day at the Fryeburg Fair.
Defending champion Nancy Zalewski of Manitowoc, Wis., looks up after winning the bow saw competion during the Woodman's Field Day at the Fryeburg Fair.
LaVonne Mikloiche, of Vandling, Penn., shows off her flashy fingernails and her strong grip as prepares for the 44th annual Woodman's Field Day at the Fryeburg Fair.
LaVonne Mikloiche, of Vandling, Penn., shows off her flashy fingernails and her strong grip as prepares for the 44th annual Woodman's Field Day at the Fryeburg Fair.
Julie Miller of Branchport, N.Y., competes in the log rolling contest during the Woodman's Field Day at the Fryeburg Fair.
Julie Miller of Branchport, N.Y., competes in the log rolling contest during the Woodman's Field Day at the Fryeburg Fair.
At risk of singeing her eyebrows, Laurette Russell of New Gloucester blows on her fire in a race to get a can of water to boil over in the tea boil contest during the Woodsman's Filed day at the Fryeburg Fair.
At risk of singeing her eyebrows, Laurette Russell of New Gloucester blows on her fire in a race to get a can of water to boil over in the tea boil contest during the Woodsman's Filed day at the Fryeburg Fair.
Woodman's Field Day officials &quotBear" (left) of Bridgton and Ben Day of Fryeburg (center) and competitor Dave Grime of Rochester, Mass., watch  the action at the Fryeburg Fair.
Woodman's Field Day officials "Bear" (left) of Bridgton and Ben Day of Fryeburg (center) and competitor Dave Grime of Rochester, Mass., watch the action at the Fryeburg Fair.
Brenda Stevens, 58, of Castleton, Vt., takes aim in the axe throwing competition Woodman's Field Day at the Fryeburg Fair. &quotIf you're frustrated, this is a good tension release," she said.
Brenda Stevens, 58, of Castleton, Vt., takes aim in the axe throwing competition Woodman's Field Day at the Fryeburg Fair. "If you're frustrated, this is a good tension release," she said.
All eyes are on Holly Waterfield of Cherry Valley, N.Y., as she competes in the crosscut saw event during the Woodman's Field Day at the Fryeburg Fair.
All eyes are on Holly Waterfield of Cherry Valley, N.Y., as she competes in the crosscut saw event during the Woodman's Field Day at the Fryeburg Fair.

FRYEBURG, Maine — Laurette Russell decided after showing horses for 20 years, she needed something else to fuel her competitive fire. So she started entering woodsman’s competitions.

“Throwing an axe at a bull’s-eye and chopping a piece of wood is very satisfying,” said Russell of New Gloucester. “There’s no cookie-cutter type of person to do it. It’s not like when you’re an ice skater, you’re a tiny little ballerina. Anyone of any size, of any age, can do this sport.”

Russell was one of 39 women in a field of 193 people at this year’s Woodsman’s Field Day held at Fryeburg Fair. The daylong event attracted more than 6,000 spectators.

Many of the male competitors make their living in the woods, but few of the women do. One who perhaps comes closest is artist Allison Melton, 27, of Bangor. The graduate student at the University of Maine in Orono took up the sport as an undergraduate and now spends her summers working as a “Timber Tina” at the Great Maine Lumberjack Show in Trenton.

Marian Colbert, a 69-year-old from Winsted, Conn., said hitting the bull’s-eye with a double-sided axe from a distance of 20 feet takes lots of practice.

“We have a set-up in our barn. I’ll throw maybe 40, 50 throws a day,” she said after winning the women’s division with a score of 21 out of a possible 25 points.

LaVonne Mikloiche of Vandling, Pa., is a high school lunch lady who competes in several events around the country each year. Before each meet, she applies some flashy paint to her fingernails.

“They make me feel feminine in this masculine event. You don’t want people to think you’re a lumberjack,” she said.

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