Lumberjack Day has been a cherished community event in West Point for the last 46 years—with one exception. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, last year’s Lumberjack Day celebration was canceled, to the dismay of community members who have been attending, participating in, or organizing the event for decades.
That’s why this year’s event on Saturday, Oct. 2 proved to be a celebrated return to tradition.
Lumberjack Day is a street parade and festival, dedicated to celebrating the area’s rich history of logging and the timber industry. This year’s logo, designed by Black Diamond Graphics of West Point, features a smiling caricature of a lumberjack donning a double-edged axe and red plaid shirt, with a banner touting this year’s slogan “Happy Days Are Here Again!”
The hundreds who turned up in West Point Saturday morning might agree. Many arrived early to fill up on a hot breakfast at the American Legion Auxiliary Hall before the popular Soap Box Derby race.
Onlookers gathered at 8:30 a.m. to watch a handful of local kids, ages 7-15, tear down the middle of Main Street in their hand-painted motorless derby cars. The young drivers and their cars were judged on their gravity-powered speed while trying to keep control and avoid crashing into the hay bales at the end of the run.
Arik Winfield won first place in the race, with a time of 24.32 seconds. Second place went to Avery Adams, and third to Bodie Craddock. Winners received trophies, and all participants were given a keepsake t-shirt after they posed for photos with their cars.
The parade began at 11 a.m., with throngs of people gathering along the parade path down Main Street. The parade featured floats, logging trucks, fire engines, unique vintage cars, costumed pedestrians, and elaborately decorated horses.
A show-stopping float created by Randy Carlins of Sandy Gulch Sign Co. was a crowd favorite, with a giant frog playing piano and animatronic cows and sheep dancing along.
West Point local Angie Ramage, who has served on the Lumberjack Day Planning Committee for at least a decade and volunteered at the festival over 25 years, was honored as this year’s Grand Marshal.
Ramage, who is known in the community for her involvement with Lumberjack Day, as well as being West Point’s Postmaster, rode her dirt bike in the parade, in true Calaveras County fashion.
Ramage’s favorite part of the event is the logging competition, where you can find her working every year. Ramage believes that the logging competition is important because timber is a dying industry that “younger generations haven’t been exposed to.”
This year’s logging winner was lumberjack World Champion Nate Hodges, of North Fork, Calif. His daughter, Molly Hodges, won in the Overall Women’s Logger category. The Local Logger award went to Renee Henault.
In a different kind of competition, the title of Lumberjack Day Queen was awarded to recent Calaveras High graduate Piper Garcia.
Four young women vied for the title of Lumberjack Day Queen this year. Each raised huge profits of over $1,000 by selling $1 raffle tickets to family and friends. Garcia raised the most at $3500, which will be returned to her in the form of a scholarship.
Committee member Diana Inslee stated, “The most notable thing about raising that money is that every penny of that goes to her college education,” and pointed out that there is no loser in the contest because every contestant is awarded a scholarship in the amount of the funds they raised, to be used towards college or trade school tuition.
Festivalgoers roamed downtown West Point throughout the day, checking out the forty gleaming cars and motorcycles in the auto show, cheering on 16 different logging and axe-throwing competitions, browsing a quilt show, and shopping dozens of art, craft and local vendor booths. Food vendors offered festival favorites like corn dogs, shaved ice, pupusas (Salvadoran griddle-fried cakes made of cornmeal and filled with meat, cheese, or beans) and cold beer.
Rock band Triple Threat entertained crowds in a shaded area just outside the West Point Community Garden. Meanwhile, across the street, the West Point Fire Department raised funds by selling their ever-popular BBQ ribs. Dessert was handled by the Covenant Church Ladies Missionary, who sold freshly baked apple, oatmeal, and pumpkin pies by the slice or whole.
Students from the Calaveras High School band raised funds by working the children’s area, selling $5 all-day passes to the rock wall, bounce house, and play areas as well as $1 bags of cotton candy. Other family-friendly fun included the popular dunk tank game and a petting zoo provided by West Point 4-H with pigs, a calf, goat, several rabbits, guinea pigs and even a turkey.
While the committee that plans Lumberjack Day is only about 10 people, this annual event is really a community effort. Planning began back in January, with area residents, business owners, and various groups coming together to pull off a day of festivity that can feel rare after a year-and-a-half of canceled events and changed plans.
Notably, the 28th Annual Calaveras Grape Stomp festival, scheduled concurrently with Lumberjack Day in neighboring Murphys, was canceled last week by the Calaveras Winegrape Alliance due to high Covid case numbers and a “lack of interest” from the community.
Expressing a different sentiment, Grand Marshal Ramage said that the theme of this year’s Lumberjack Day was developed with a desire to celebrate, “forgetting about last year, focusing on ‘21” and was pleased with how it evolved into the idea of “happiness.”
After seeing the smiles on kids’ faces as they’re handed a gleaming trophy, hearing an excited audience shout “Pull! Pull!” at the Jack and Jill bucking competition or enjoying live music and good food with loved ones, others might just agree that happy days are here again. The Lumberjack Day Planning Committee certainly hopes so.