DARBY – Dylan Schlapman thinks there’s a good chance he might have been at the very first Darby Logger Days.
It happened 11 years ago, in the same year that he was born.
“You’ll have to ask my mom,” Schlapman said Friday night while waiting his turn on the choker race course. “I don’t really remember too much about that year.”
But he was pretty convinced that he’d not missed one since and he was looking forward to watching his mom compete in the upcoming mom and pa race again this year.
“It’s one of my favorites,” he said, with a big wide smile. “It makes me laugh.”
Over on the other side of the arena, Lance Conners was taking a minute to relax before the first events got underway.
The action-packed weekend is old hat to him.
Conners is an original member of the Timber Workers Union that came up with the idea to start the competition centered around old-time logging skills as a way to raise money to fight for a change in the way the national forest was being managed.
“We realized pretty quick that we would have a tough time doing that and when the union kind of fell apart, we started a nonprofit organization to keep Darby Days going,” he said.
Conners donated the land where the event has been held since its inception.
“That first year was really difficult,” he remembered. “We really didn’t know what we were doing. We had 16 different electric generators running everything.”
And they had no idea that it was going to be such a hit.
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“It attracted world champion competitors and the crowd size just exploded,” he said. “We give out good prize money. Some of these competitors can leave with $2,000 to $3,000 in their pockets.”
The event attracts people from all over the country. Some even make it a point to schedule their vacations around it every year.
“It’s a good hometown kind of show,” Conners said. “It’s not commercialized. I think people like that. It’s why we chose the third weekend in July. It doesn’t conflict with any other events around the country.”
It’s not something that just happens.
“It’s really a giant workout,” Conners said. “It’s something that you have to work all year round to make it happen. We have some really dedicated people and good sponsors.”
All the proceeds from the event are donated back into the community to places likes schools and Special Olympics. Darby Logger Days also makes a payment each year for the land where the town’s veterans memorial is located.
“We decided a long time ago that this money would be dedicated back to the community,” he said.
Those monies aren’t the only economic impact the event has on Darby and the surrounding area.
“It’s huge for local businesses,” he said. “It’s the biggest weekend of the year for many of them.”
Relaxing on his bleacher chair, Ray Stanfill knew just what Conners was talking about. His son and granddaughter had made the trip to Darby from California just to see the big Darby celebration for themselves.
“I’ve been coming to this for the last five years,” Stanfill said. “This event and the bull riding are the two things that really put Darby on the map.”
Reach reporter Perry Backus at 363-3300 or email@example.com.