It’s about more than watching a hunk of wood transform into a stunning piece of art, or the suspense of a person fighting to stay on a floating log or fall into the water. And it’s more than the sight of a chain saw rip with the force of a V8 engine.
It’s a celebration of a Northwest heritage.
On Sept. 27-29 Old Mill Days will be in full swing, honoring Port Gamble’s history as a mill town.
Port Gamble’s annual lumberjack festival features chain saw carving — both ice and wood — and carnival rides, log rolling, lumberjack contests, a car show, and much more.
“We are doing a show that is designed for competitions and cash prizes,” event coordinator Johnathan Miller said.
“We are the highest-paying cash prize competition in the state of Washington,” he added. “Our chain saw champions [are] some of the best carvers in the world.”
Competitions don’t stop with the impressive chain saw carving. This year, Old Mill Days will feature the third annual Toughest Timberman Strongman event and a lumberjack show. The show itself will feature the top two fastest lumberjacks in the world.
And for the first time, the festival will host a mixed martial arts match on Saturday under the moniker, “Mayhem at the Mill.”
Miller said the popularity of mixed martial arts in the area encouraged him to include the match during the event. But he does note that while most of Old Mill Days is a family event, the MMA match is for adults.
“It’s only (ages) 21 and older,” he said. “This is not for kids. This is hand-to-hand combat. I think it’s going to be a good time.”
But Old Mill Days is not all for adults. The family-friendly fest will include the Forest Festival on Saturday; an educational and insightful experience for youngsters. Not to mention the carnival rides.
In less than a decade, Old Mill Days has grown to host a plethora of contests and activities. This year, organizers expect more than 10,000 people to descend upon Port Gamble to take part in, and observe, the events. But what has become a festival of lumberjack delights humbly began nine years ago as a birthday party for Miller.
“The first year I did it, I wanted the birthday party,” Miller said. “We really just did a beer garden and a carnival.”
Working in the fireworks field at the time, he threw together a Port Gamble party with a nighttime show. But the event sparked an interest in evolving it into something more. With a history as a mill town, the pieces easily came together to form Old Mill Days.
The annual event no longer boasts a fireworks display, but it garners considerable attention for its ax-chopping, chain saw-roaring good times. Since its inception, it has been featured on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and the carving competition was included on an episode of the Discover Channel’s “Saw Dogs.”
This year, Evening Magazine plans to film a feature on the event, and King-5 TV will film a live broadcast, Miller said.
The 2013 Old Mill Days will also include a performance by local party band Soul Siren on Friday, and a classic car show on Saturday. A wood-carving auction and the Hot Saws will close out the festivities on Sunday. The Hot Saw event showcases a variety of Franken-saws, including a chain saw powered by a V8 engine.
More information about Old Mill Days, and a schedule of events, can be found at www.oldmilldays.com.