Men, women, boys and girls are invited to chop, saw, roll, throw, split, slip, slurp, sweat, hack, heave, rip, sip, skritch, pound, chomp and spit in public Saturday on the Page County Fairgrounds at Luray, Va.
It also will be possible just to watch from the stands as people of all shapes and sizes compete in the Third Annual Page County Woodchoppers Ball & Virginia Championship Rail-Splitting Contest, but promoter Don Liscomb would druther everybody got right down there on the field.
"Our contests are fun to watch but more fun to enter," Liscomb said. "We have some that involve strength and skill and others where you only need enthusiasm. The whole idea is for families to get out in the fresh air and have a plain old country good time."
Besides offering a cure for winter's cabin fever, the affair benefits the Page Valley Mission Church. Admission is $1 for adults, 50 cents for students, children under 12 free. There are no contest entry fees except for the chain-saw competition, which is new this year and will award cash prizes based on how many people enter. Registration will be from 9 to 10 a.m.
Other prizes will be appropriate to the contests: If you win the woodchopping, you get an ax; the champ pie-eater gets (urp) another pie; and certificates are handed out generously to the children.
Contestants are urged to supply their own axes, hammers, wedges, gluts, mauls, beetles, cant hooks, peaveys, crosscut saws and so forth, but tools will be furnished to the empty-handed. The atmosphere is so down-home and friendly that contestants have been known to lend their finest tools to their strongest competitors.
Most events are divided into novice and expert categories for men, women, mixed doubles and children. The contests include:
Team and individual rail-splitting (10-inch oak logs drawn by lot), which involves almost as much art and luck as strength and skill. Some logs split open like ripe watermelons while others absorb wedges, gluts, splitting axes and grown men's tears. The winner of the individual event qualifies for the National Rail-Splitting Championships in Lincoln (of course) Illinois.
Free-style woodchopping, in which the experts stand on the log and chop it out from between their feet. Steel-reinforced boots are recommended, and the sponsors assume no responsibility for your toes.
Crosscut sawing (two-person teams on softwood logs).
Log-rolling, in which a hellacious big log must be personhandled over a 25-foot dog leg course using only cant hooks or peaveys.
Fire-building (girls 12 and under); each child gets two matches, all the kindling she wants, and five minutes to set the fairgrounds ablaze.
Log-throwing, which is like the Scottish caber-toss except in Luray they use a long fencepost rather than a telephone pole.
Nail-driving, in which you race the clock while pounding a pound of nails into a yellow pine 6-by-6 (penalty for bent or lost nails).
Pie-eating, in which the pies are always gooey and covered with whipped cream.
Tobacco spitting, which usually is won by a woman, make what you will of that.
There is a serious purpose (beyond neighborliness) behind the affair, Liscom admits. "We want to teach, maintain and reward the skills by which our early settlers made their living."
The vast pile of split wood, butts and kindling left over at the end of the day will be distributed to elderly Luray residents with woodstoves.