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The ‘heritage’ and ‘legacy’ of Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival

Long-time volunteers, Dale Addis and Serena Karwatski, share what the festival means to them, in celebration of the 300-plus volunteers that put on the show.

On a warm and sunny Saturday, the stands at the Al McIntosh Loggers Sports Grounds sit empty. But make no mistake, there is a buzz in the air.

Leftover stumps from the 2022 Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival’s finale still sit in their perch, awaiting to be replaced with a precisely angled falling tree. The lawn sprinklers tick in unison across the grass. The sounds of saws echo from a shed.

Head timer and a volunteer for the festival, Serena Karwatski, meets me at the grounds with a hearty greeting.  

“Timber!”

To say that volunteering for Squamish Days is in her blood is not an exaggeration.

“My mom was the head timer at the time,” Karwatski recalled when talking about her first year volunteering. Now Karwatski is approaching her 30th year putting on the annual August long weekend show.

But Karwatski isn’t the only one with the Loggers Sports in her genes.

Another long-time volunteer and current head official, Dale Addis, explained that both his mother and father volunteered at the festival for years in many different roles. And he remembered his first volunteer experience at the festival came in 1988.

“My first thing was handing out lemonade to the cutters when I was eight,” he said.

To celebrate the 300-plus volunteers that help put on the festival, The Squamish Chief talked with these two volunteers to learn about what the festival means to them and Squamish plus the perks of volunteering for Squamish Days.

‘It means heritage’

Even though Addis and Karwatski were interviewed separately, the word ‘heritage’ came up when asked about what the festival means to them.

“When I hear Squamish Days,” Karwatski started, “it just brings sawdust in my heart. I love it. It puts a smile on my face.”

“It means heritage,” she continued. “It means legacy.”

“It’s important for the community to have events like this because it shows the heritage of the town,” Addis said.

To Addis, events like the festival help make the community members feel connected.

“It's important to provide means for people within the community to give back and get a sense of giving back, so that they feel attached to the community,” he explained.

And while heritage may have the feel of looking back, volunteering for the festival and putting on a great show actually moves that heritage forward.

“We're always looking for more volunteers, hoping to keep this event alive to showcase the heritage of the community,” said Addis.

And Karwatski jokes that after volunteering once, you might just wind up volunteering for “the rest of your life.”

“As soon as you're involved in it, you're not going anywhere,” she said with a laugh.

Addis described the volunteer group as a “family.”

“That's one of the main reasons why I've kept up with all the years,” he said. “It's because of that sense of community you have with the people that you're working with here because it's kind of like a family.

The perks of volunteering 

Although the event typically goes by in the flash, Karwatski said the planning each year starts all the way back in January. While it’s a big job to co-ordinate all the volunteers and get everything in order leading up to the weekend, there are some awesome perks to the roles.

Karwatski said as a timer you get an official and authentic t-shirt plus a discounted beef on a bun. After the Sunday show, she said the grounds crew volunteers get a pancake breakfast on Monday morning fit to “feed an army,” which is put on by other volunteers.

Then later on Monday, all of the volunteers earn a nice dinner where they can recount the weekend’s festivities and take a little bit of time to enjoy another successful year.

But needless to say, one of the major perks of volunteering is getting close to the action.

“You're right in the middle of the action, you get the best seat in the house,” Karwatski said.

For timers that includes being on the field for the tree-falling finale, where competitors have to precisely cut a tree to hit a small tee on the ground.

After the thunderous finale, the volunteers take a collective deep breath and relax. But Karwatski says nothing tops being out on the field.

“It’s pretty fun out there, especially when you’re out there on the field and you’re hearing them chant your name,” she said. 

“I’m just a head timer here,” she said with a laugh. “I’m not doing anything crazy.”

But the community love that comes from chanting someone’s name just because is exactly the type of joy she hopes to leave behind.

“To me, I’m spreading the love of Squamish Days, spreading that legacy and everything, all the meaning of it to other people, so that they can enjoy what I enjoy,” she said.

“What I’ve been enjoying my whole life.”

True to her word about spreading legacy, after we finish interviewing Karwatski shows me the timber training area and some of the other practice obstacles. She waves to Addis and a few others who are helping prepare some wood. 

She thanks me for coming by and, just as she greeted me, she gives me a cheerful send-off.

“Timber!”

2023 Squamish Days details

This year, Squamish Days Loggers Sports Festival is from Aug. 3 to 6., starting with the kettle boil challenge and chili cook-off on Thursday and ending with the Sunday show. The doors open at noon and the show starts at 1 p.m.

This year the festival is bolstering up its Kid’s Festival and Novice and Intermediate Show on Saturday, Aug. 5.  

Last year Sunday tickets sold out so reserve your ticket to the festival online at squamishdays.ca. For those interested in volunteering now or in the future, they are encouraged to email info@squamishdays.ca









 

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