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A show like no other

Like a true world-class sporting event, you could feel the energy emanating from every inch of space throughout the Al McIntosh Loggers Sports Grounds on Sunday (Aug. 1) for the 2004 Open Show.

Like a true world-class sporting event, you could feel the energy emanating from every inch of space throughout the Al McIntosh Loggers Sports Grounds on Sunday (Aug. 1) for the 2004 Open Show.

Athletes were preparing themselves for an afternoon full of intense competition - sharpening blades, tightening up laces and fine-tuning powersaws. Hundreds of spectators were busy trying to find the best seat in the house to catch all the live action, while the many volunteers put the final touches in place for each event.

Then, with a huge blast from the rifle of parade marshall Mae Palm, the competition began for the 48th straight year.

Open Show MC Paul Mackenzie kept the pace fast and furious as event after event was introduced to the audience. He then let the athletes do the talking, and they spoke volumes with their top-notch performances in 17 different events.

"These guys were awesome," said first-time Loggers Sports spectator Greg Thomlinson from Pemberton. "I've only ever seen this on TV before, but to see it live was fantastic. I think these guys and gals deserve a lot of credit for what they do. These sports are tough but they make it look pretty damn easy."

On Sunday, 53 world-class loggers sports athletes took part in the Open Show competition. In Saturday's novice and intermediate show, 61 up-and-coming stars took to the field.

"It was a great success," said show chairman and super-volunteer John Hurford. "Having a total of 114 competitors compete in the number of events we have here - it's basically unheard of in North American Loggers Sports. To put it all together is quite a challenge."

The ubiquitous loggers sports icons, Mr. Al McIntosh and his wife were on hand to accept an honourary lifetime membership to Squamish Days Loggers Sports, on behalf of President Ray Keyes and the rest of the Loggers Sports committee.

"It's quite an honour," said McIntosh. "I just want to thank all of the volunteers and sponsors who have made this event the greatest loggers sports show in the world. And most of all I want to thank my wife for sticking by me all these years."

Once again, the event attracted an international field, with athletes competing from Australia, New Zealand, Washington, Oregon, California, Nova Scotia, Alberta and British Columbia.

"These fellas are athletes - we have the best in the world here," said Mackenzie. "They love Squamish, they all do. Rob Weibel (from Oregon) said to me he gets treated like royalty here and he'll never miss a Squamish show."

For Mackenzie, calling the Open Show was as enjoyable as his many years spent entertaining the Squamish Days crowds as Paula the Clown.

"I do miss being a clown," said Mackenzie. "But I enjoy getting the crowd involved. The more they're involved, the more they enjoy themselves. You get them yelling and screaming and they all have a great time."

During the four-hour competition, there was no shortage of yelling and screaming from the crowd of 1,000-plus, who were urged to cheer on their favorite competitor - and the athletes didn't disappoint. Most of the bucking events were too close to call without seeing the official time.

In the Canadian Championship Chokerman's Race, an event that originated in Squamish, Wade Stewart narrowly beat Ed Braun Jr. by one-tenth of a second. And in the open birling event, Darren Hudson and Wade Stewart brought the crowd along for a slippery log-rolling ride, as the two veterans tried to throw each other off balance and into the pond. Hudson prevailed after an amazing display of speed, balance and concentration from both birlers. The ladies singlebuck was another tight race, with Brenda Boyko edging out Wendy Parks by only half a second.

Later, Parks and Boyko teamed up to win the Canadian Championship Jill and Jill Hand Bucking title over Sandy Laughlin and Sarah Mooney. And in the crowd-favorite World Championship Tree Climb, Wade Stewart beat arch-rival Brian Bartow by two-tenths of a second to clinch the title, only to lose the World Championship Tree Topping event by a mere two seconds to Greg Hart from Mission.

The event started with a tribute to the 300-plus volunteers who devote their time to such a huge amount of planning and organization throughout the year.

"We work and strive to set an excellent standard for each and every event," said Hurford. "It's a project that has to grow on you to do it. It takes us from mid-May 'til today to pull this off. Each person probably puts in 150 to 200 hours. The huge amount of volunteers and the large amount of businesses and industry all working together are what makes this week-long celebration. Without it, it just wouldn't happen."

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