GILFORD — It was a day for amateurs at the Gilford Old Home Day Woodsmen's Competition, which drew a large crowd of more than 350 people to a field next to the Gilford Elementary School Saturday.
Some 26 competitors took part, including Randy Morrissette, 48, of Lakeport, who showed up with some friends to watch the competition and decided at the last minute to enter the pole-climbing event.
Morrissette, who works at New Hampshire Ball Bearing and is a part-time tree worker, finished third with a time of 23.9 seconds, trailing only Osian Batchelder with a time of 18.49 seconds and Clark Goreau with 19.52 seconds.
''I was here with a bunch of friends who came down to watch it. They influenced me to give it a try,'' said Morrissette.
Also making the pole climb was Corey Lofblad, 50, of the Gilford Home Center, who provided the Stihl power saws used by competitors, and who later admitted that making it up the 40-foot pole to ring the bell was a lot of work.
''I could hear people yelling and encouraging me. I thought I was doing pretty good until I heard one of them yell 'keep at it. You're halfway there' and I started to wonder what I'd got myself into,'' said Lofblad.
Ross Breton of Gilmanton, 18, won the axe toss, said he's no lumberjack and that it was the first time he's ever thrown an axe in competition.
The 2013 Gilford High School graduate, who works at NAPA Auto Parts and at Meadowbrook, said that he hopes to come back next year and defend his axe throwing title.
''It was fun. a lot of my friends were cheering for me,'' said Breton.
Dale Squires, one of the organizers of the event and a Belknap Landscape Company employee, took part in the axe-throwing competition, taking fifth place.
''It was surprising how much you get involved and how intent you become on hitting the target,'' said Squires, who said that he was pleased to see so many local people getting involved in the competitions.
''It's great to have A.J. Dupere, head coach of the UNH Woodsman Team, here helping us run the event. He showed everyone who was new at this how to do it well, like the cross-cut saw competition and really encouraged the competitors,'' said Squires.
Bill Bickford of Kitchen Cravings, chairman of the Gilford Bicentennial committee, which brought the Woodsmen's Competition to Gilford last year, says that he hopes the event will become a major part of the town's Old Home Day festivities.
''Last year we held it on a Sunday because there were so many Bicentennial activities. It really fills a lull in Saturday activity and looks really popular. People were coming in to set up their lawn chairs before the parade started and were right back here watching us set up after the parade ended. As long as we have the continued support of local businesses like Belknap Landscape Company and the Gilford Home Center I think we'll do fine,'' said Bickford.
Dale Squires of Belknap Landscape Company, who helped organize the Gilford Old Home Day Woodsmen's Competition, shows his delight when his axe hit the bulls eye in the axe throwing competition. (Roger Amsden/for The Laconia Daily Sun)