Buck Kelly has been a fixture at the Wayne County Fair for nearly 20 years now.
He hails from Pine Bush (NY) and his life revolves around working in the woods. From chainsaws to axes, Kelly is an expert in the esoteric art of logging.
“It’s pretty much my whole life,” the 63-year-old told TWI Sports Saturday afternoon before a packed grandstand. “The company I work for (Brinkerhoff Tree Service) does all kinds of work with trees. And, let me tell you, we’ve been busy the last couple of years with all these storms.”
Kelly began traveling to woodsmen’s competitions in New York back in 1995. Each year, he journeys to places like Otisville, Grantville and Sussex to try his hand at the various events...using all the tricks of his trade acquired from working with Brinkerhoff.
Each August, Kelly comes to the Wayne County Fair to compete in its woodsmen’s competition. This particular show, which is sponsored by the Wayne Conservation District, is now in its 29th year.
“I love coming here,” Buck said with a smile. “It’s the farthest I go, but it’s definitely worth it. The people are great, the competition is good and I always have fun.”
It’s a safe bet that Kelly really does have fun in Dyberry Township. After all, he’s among the most successful competitors every year and was even crowned Grand Champion in 2002.
On Saturday, Kelly turned in yet another outstanding all-round performance. Buck piled up five individual wins on his way to the day’s now unofficial “grand champion” status.
All told, more than 20 elite competitors from all over the region attended this year’s woodsmen competition at the 150th Wayne County Fair. It was a turnout that left organizer and event chairman Paul Reining happy, but exhausted.
“So much work goes into this, but it’s all worth it in the end,” he said just moments after the final chainsaw was silenced. “I’m very pleased with how everything went. The turnout was good and the crowd good, too.”
Reining has worked with the Wayne Conservation district for the past four years and he’s become an integral part of this annual fair event. Paul is a passionate believer in the importance of logging in Wayne County...and the woodsmen’s competition is a showcase for the industry.
“Timber harvesting is still very important in Wayne County,” he said. “I think most people would be surprised to know how many local families earn their living by logging. This industry is still a huge part of our economy in northeastern Pennsylvania.”
By the Numbers
Chainsaw tree felling led off the 29th woodsmen’s competition and the crowd immediately came to life.
Page 2 of 3 - Kelly began his dominant run with a victory in this opening event. Buck needed just over 25 seconds to bring down his tree and he dropped it with uncanny precision just three inches from the pin.
Ed Backus and Philip Geib of Five Star Contracting finished second and third, respectively.
Next up was the first of several chainsawing events. This one featured saws measuring 3.2 to 4.19 cubic inches, a set of numbers that especially appealed to Kelly. He wowed the crowd with a gold medal time of :05.86, as compared to nearly 10 seconds required by runners-up Backus and Geib.
Brittany Schwartz and Bridgette Backus went head-to-head in the women’s chainsawing event. Schwartz, who represents Timber Wolf Logging Corporation, took first place with a time of :13.03. Five Star Contracting’s Backus settled for silver at :17.34.
Competitors returned to the front of the grandstand for “Skill Tree Felling,” an expert-level event that employs saws, axes and wedges. Each entrant was required to have completed Game of Logging training to be eligible.
Hometown hero Terry Schwartz brought the crowd to its feet with a gold medal performance in the professional category. A multiple grand champion in past years, the Honesdale High School graduate earned 103 points en route to the win.
Jim Watson Jr. of Dunn’s Sawmill was second with 99 points.
In the non-professional division, Chris Robson of Oregon Township finished first with a total of 113 points. Kyle Reining of R-Ranch was second (106 pts) and Brian McGrath was third (102 pts).
Kelly returned to the spotlight in the next three events, piling up three more medals.
Buck wrought gold in the 4.2-5.0 chainsawing with a blistering time of :04.57. He was followed by Jim Watson Jr. (:05.37) and Terry Schwartz (:06.47).
Traditionally, axe-throwing is by far the competition’s most popular event and this day was no exception. Kelly drilled two bulls-eyes en route to the win. Kent Van Horn of Penn Forest LLC was second, while Earl Whitmore Jr. of Dunn’s Sawmill defeated Schwartz in a thow-off for third.
“I practice every night for at least a little while,” Buck said while cradling yet another trophy. “If you don’t, you get into bad habits. It’s a fun event that everybody seems to like.”
Over & Out
Kelly continued his dominant run at the 29th Woodsmen’s Competition with his third chainsawing triumph, this one in the 5.01-5.46 division.
Once again, Buck ran away with the win, needing just :13.58 to complete his cuts. Watson Jr. took second (:14.8) and Ron Pladek of Nichols College Forestry School was third (:16.84).
Jim Watson Jr. and Brittany Schwartz teamed up to claim first place in the Jack & Jill Crosscut event. This talented twosome elicited a huge roar from the crowd in ripping through the log in less than 10 seconds.
Page 3 of 3 - The team of Kent and Beth Van Horn earned silver (:14.8), while the duo William Kratz and Kaeleigh Schwartz wrought bronze (:21.68).
Philip Geib rounded out the chainsawing events with a win in the 5.5 & Greater category, stopping the clock at :09.68. Kelly was second (:12.05) and Pladek third (:14.44).
In the afternoon’s grand finale, Watson Jr. and Mike Miszler of Dunn’s Sawmill captured first place in the Two Person Crosscut. The local lads needed just :08.53 to finish up, while Kent and Beth Van Horn claimed second (:13.63). Billy Marsden and Whitmore Jr. ended up third (:15.12).