One of the undisputed symbols of Canadian culture is the burly, honest, and hardworking lumberjack. Miramichi has a rich history in the timber industry going back to the first European settlers here, and the tradition is continued to this day. Though most local woodmen legends enunciate the challenges and dangers faced, such as in the legend of the Dungarvon Whooper or the Ballad of Peter Emberly, some woodmen have risen to the status of folk hero, such as the Joseph “Big Joe” Mufferaw and the stories and tall tales surrounding him. Mufferaw, a lumberjack who lived in Ottawa in the nineteenth century, was well known as the working man’s hero who fought injustice and was not afraid to get into a brawl or two. Stompin’ Tom Connors celebrated Mufferaw for his supposed superhuman feats in the 1970s song Big Joe Mufferaw: “Joe had to portage from the Gatineau down/To see a little girl he had in Kemptville town/He was back and forth some many times to see that gal/The path he wore became the Rideau Canal.”
But that is not to say the superhuman feats of the humble lumberjack are relics of a bygone era! On August 17th and 18th the Upper Miramichi Forest Festival will be held at the Central New Brunswick Woodmen’s Museum in Boiestown, featuring the Professional Lumberjack Competition. I spoke with Bernice Price, Executive Director of the Woodmen’s Museum, and she was very enthusiastic about the upcoming competition. “Over 20 competitors are registered already, it’ll be a very busy day!” says Price. “We’re thrilled to have the lumberjack competition back in our territory. We’re back in business again – thank goodness! We love to host it again.”
On Friday, August 17th the Saplings theatre troop will be acting out 2 fractured fairy tales and will later announce the 7 Wonders of the Miramichi. People can nominate their favourite wonders, and nominations are online for people to cast their vote. That evening they will unveil the 7 Wonders, with a prize for first place.
Saturday, August 18th is the Professional Lumberjack Competition, and contestants will compete for the Woodmen’s Museum top lumberjack and lumberjill of the day. The lumberjacks will be competing all day taking part in activities such as vertical chop, buck saw, cross cut, ‘Jack and Jill’ sawing, underhand chop, axe throwing, kettle boiling, stock chainsaw and open modified. A hearty supper of baked ham, beans and scalloped potatoes will be provided by the European traveling teens, and at 9:00 PM the Woodmen’s Museum will host a ball with live dance music. Casual dress, plaids are recommended. Tickets can be picked up at the Museum. Admission to the Lumberjack Competition is $5 for adults, $15 for a family. Admission to the museum is included.
The Central New Brunswick Woodmen’s Museum is a Canadian forestry museum located in Boiestown, New Brunswick. The museum is located on a 15-acre (61,000 m2) site alongside Highway 8 and the Southwest Miramichi River. Its collection includes tools and models which demonstrate the history of the forestry industry in New Brunswick and the Maritime Provinces. Check out the website at http://www.WoodmensMuseum.com or give them a call at 1-506-369-7214.