The Ultimate Guide to the Lumberjack Heritage Festival

Northeastern Ontario has a proud lumberjack tradition and this summer it will be celebrated in epic form in Kapuskasing. The annual Lumberjack Heritage Festival features a full weekend of spectacular lumberjack-themed strength competitions like traditional log rolling, axe throwing, log sawing, fire building and burling. Over the course of three exciting days in July, the Lumberjack Festival takes over the town of Kapuskasing with live entertainment, a street parade, fireworks, beer garden, antique car show, musical concerts, kids' playground, BBQ competition and a special local vendors market. From July 22 to 24, 2016, cheer on local lumberjack teams or even sign up to participate in the events—no lumberjack experience necessary!

The jam-packed summer festival celebrates the forestry heritage and culture of Kapuskasing. Now in its 17th year, the annual event gets Kapuskasing buzzing with excitement and draws thousands of spectators from across Cochrane District. In previous years the event has been televised on Outdoor Life Network and TSN.

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Here is your step-by-step guide to an epic weekend of Kapuskasing lumberjack-themed fun:

Friday Night Lights

A town-wide evening parade kicks off the Lumberjack Heritage Festival on the Friday night and the whole community will be on hand. Come on down to Riverside Park as it begins to draw crowds with dazzling floats, music and outdoor vendors. For a $5 entry fee (kids are free), you’ll get an all-access pass to the festival events in Riverside Park. This is the epicentre of weekend celebrations. The official Opening Ceremonies kick off here in the early evening followed by family-friendly performances from top-notch local musicians and a lively beer garden. A shimmering fireworks display caps off the first night of the summer’s best weekend.

Log Rolling, Axe Throwing & Chainsaws

Saturday and Sunday are jam-packed with activities taking place in and around Riverside Park.

Don’t miss the start of the amateur lumberjack competitions, where local teams of six (at least one female is required on each team) compete in epic feats of strength. Early Saturday, lumberjack veteran experts show new competitors how to complete challenging tasks like sawing logs, throwing axes, log rolling, chainsawing, obstacle courses and water-boiling competitions (teams have to build a fire using logs in an effort to boil water quickly).  Competitors are judged on speed and accuracy. Throughout the weekend you can drop by to watch teams of friends and coworkers flex their muscles in hopes of taking home over $8000 in prizes.

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Pay homage to Kapuskasing’s forefathers and channel your inner pioneer at a replica of an old Northern Ontario bush camp. People dressed up as traditional lumberjacks demonstrate what life was like in the bush camps where they once lived and worked. Then catch a live wood carving demonstration—you’ll be amazed at the wood carvers' impressive finished products. Want to grab a souvenir? The best wood carvings are for sale!

BBQ Competition

There’s a damn good smell coming from the BBQs in the park, and you owe it to yourself to see what’s cooking. This year’s festival lineup includes a professional BBQ competition. Chefs are challenged to roast ribs, chicken, or surprise ingredients to perfection and impress expert judges. The winning BBQ masters go on to compete at the provincial level. Swing by the BBQs in the park and get some good eats. All day, various food stalls will be serving up hot dogs, hamburgers, fries, bearpaws, corn on the cob, chili, cotton candy and other tasty treats.

Saturday Concert Night

Entertainment

Saturday night brings live bands to the Sports Palace for a can’t-miss night of dancing and celebration. The annual festival concerts typically feature three separate bands, with tribute bands proving to be a popular draw for festival-goers. Rock ‘n roll, folk and country music bands play the crowd-pleasing hits that get boots on the dance floor. Entrance is $25 for all three shows.

Lumberjack Breakfast

It’s Sunday morning, and you’re recovering from last night’s concerts.  Get your strength up for another day of activities with a hearty lumberjack breakfast of eggs, bacon, beans and potatoes. Enjoy your breakfast at the Kiwanis Club or a local diner. On Sunday morning there’s also a special lumberjack community mass that’s open to all (location still to be determined).

Car Show, Crossfit, Marketplace & More

Throughout Sunday morning and afternoon, lumberjack competitions continue in Riverside Park. Check out more strength events, including a Crossfit competition that’s become popular in recent years. The Crossfit fitness challenges are designed to test the strength of the female and male participants at a mobile fitness centre set up in Riverside Park. The winners of this crossfit competition qualify to go on to regional crossfit competitions.

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Drop by the car and truck Show 'n Shine and vote on your favorite antique car, modern sports car or motorcycle. Bring the kids to the splashpad waterpark to cool off and watch them jump for joy on the inflatable bouncy castles set up for the weekend. Look out for activities like rock climbing, laser tag and a BMX stunt show. Wander pedestrian-only marketplace circle and check out local artisans and vendors selling jewelry, antiques clothing, specialty foods and more.

In previous years, a popular Rawhide Rodeo has been held on Lumberjack Festival weekend. If it gets confirmed for 2016, the popular extreme rodeo will bring professional cowboys and cowgirls to Kapuskasing to entertain with thrilling riding, roping and racing demonstrations. 

Kapuskasing & Beyond

The lumberjack competitions and other festival activities are enough to keep you entertained all weekend, but there are other great attractions in the Kapuskasing region too. Visit Fromagerie Kapuskoise, an artisanal cheese factory selling delectable cheese curds perfect for poutine. Fancy a round of golf? The Kapuskasing Golf Club offers special discount rates during the July 22-24 weekend. Take a trip through Kapuskasing’s 20th century history with a visit to the Ron Morel Memorial Museum. Housed in two train passenger cars and an historic CNR 5107 train engine, the free museum features displays about Kapuskasing's World War I internment camp and Pioneer life in Northern Ontario.

Looking for a place to rest your head? Local hotels often have special rates for the weekend and Kapuskasing is closely located to two major campsites, René Brunelle Provincial Park and Twin Lakes Camping.

New events are being added to the Lumberjack Heritage Festival lineup as it nears. For updates on the festival lineup, call the Kapuskasing Tourist Centre 1-800-463-6432 or visit their website here.

About Emily Baillie

Emily is a travel writer hailing from rural Ontario. After travelling to over 25 countries worldwide she is on a mission to inspire people to get off the beaten path and explore destinations both near and far. She works with travel brands and new media publications to inspire meaningful travel. 

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