Darby boxing over water

This will be the last year to watch boxing over water and all the other popular competitions at Darby Logger Days. Organizers have decided to call it quits after finding it difficult to find volunteers to help host the decades-old event.

The last Darby Logger Days begins tonight.

It's an event that has paid tribute to the history of logging for decades. Darby Logger Days celebrates the skill and bravery of those who work in the time-honored tradition of logging with timber competitions, music, free kids activities, food and fun.

Event organizer, Sam Conner, owner of Electric Beach Hair Salon, said that the original event started in the 1970s, but faded away. She brought it back 18-years ago and said she feels sad that it is ending, but it is time for a change.

“It is all nonprofit and we raise funds for the South Valley Veteran’s Memorial,” she said. “We also help kids by donating to sports at school, Camp Make-A-Dream, Special Olympics and Darby Fire. However much we have left over we donate out.”

Finding volunteers to run the logging athletic competitions has been the biggest challenge.

“It is just getting harder and harder to find people to run the events,” Connor said.

Darby Logger Days is one of Darby's biggest weekends of the year and Connor said businesses have told her they appreciate the revenue it brings.

“Hopefully, we can come up with something that draws as many people in and entertains people and keeps the money coming into town for all the businesses,” she said.

The Connor family has a long history with the logging industry.

“The Connor Mill goes way back,” she said. “My husband still does logging over in Oregon. He has to travel away because there is no logging here. We tried to hold on and keep [Darby Logger Days] going here and teach the younger generation what the logging history is about.”

Connor said that logging kept Darby and Ravalli County alive for many years.

“In the 70s they had Darby Logger Day, so when we started it 18-years ago there was a big group of us, probably 40, and it dwindled down to two of us,” Connor said. “When we brought it back we made it more of a family event from the rough and rowdy event that it was. We wanted to keep the history going.”

Connor said the veteran’s memorial will still need funding so she will look at possibilities.

“We’ll come back with an event, it just won’t be a logging competition but something easier to do,” she said.

The Darby Logger Days Board of Directors put a thank you to past volunteers and a full explanation of the “end of a tradition” on the website darbyloggerdays.com.

“The goals of commemorating the logging industry, contributing to area non-profits and maintaining the Veteran’s Memorial has taken a lot of hard work, by a dedicated few,” the board explanation said. “We have found ourselves faced with very little manpower for the very large undertaking of setting up and taking down the competition arena.”

It will also be place in the event programs.

The notice said that continuing with a community event the third weekend in July is a good idea.

“If you think you might like to attend a meeting, this fall, to explore possibilities and to be involved as a volunteer worker bee, please email your name to: darbyloggerdays@aol.com or- text 406-821-9242; You will be notified with/if a meeting is scheduled.”

Diana Rogers, who has helped with the event for two-years, said they have mostly received responses of “I can’t believe it” and “bummer.”

The last Darby Logger Days begins tonight at 5 p.m. with the opening of food, beer and vendor booths and logger competitions.

Entry fees cost $15 on Friday and $25 on Saturday. There is no charge for kids under age 12 when accompanied by an adult. Kids participate for free in challenges thanks to Two Feathers Ranch. Tonight, family events in the main arena start at 6 p.m. with Hot Saw demonstrations and kid’s Choker Races, Tug-of-War and Boxing over Water competitions. Adults compete in a Chain Saw Toss, a Skillet Toss, a loader contest and a “Ma and Pa Race.”

The “Ma and Pa Race” is an hilarious activity where Ma and Pa start in bed, get up, put boots on and Pa pushes Ma in a wheel barrel to a 12-inch cross cut log. They saw a cookie, Pa gets in wheel barrel and Ma pushes Pa back to bed. They take off their boots and lay down. The team with the fastest time wins.

From 7 to 11 p.m. there will be live music of Wayne Brothers and The Night Life Band.

Saturday begins with the Darby Community Parade that lines up at 8 a.m. and marches through town at 9 a.m.

At 10 a.m., educational, retail and food booths open

Kids register at “Grammy’s Corner” at 11 a.m. and compete from noon to 4 p.m. Kids can register for a free bicycle drawing and other prizes. They can enjoy a bouncer, a rock climbing wall and competitions of mini-skidder race, three-legged race, firewood stacking, tug-of war, Sponge Bob hard hat toss, a tomahawk throw, watermelon eating contest and at 4 p.m., a sawdust pile.

There are a few rules: absolutely no dogs, coolers or outside beverages allowed.

Part of the Darby Logger Day area is actually property donated for use by Connor each year.

Adult logging competitions include double cross cut, men’s speed chop, women’s speed chop, cookie stack, jack and jill cross cut and jill and jill cross cut, pole climb, stock saw, men’s cross cut, women’s cross cut, choker race, hot saw, accuracy fall, logger relay, log roll and spring board. Logging sports continue until approximately 5 p.m. but all times are subject to change.

Amanda Davis lined up the entertainment for Saturday evening.

Sound checks begin at 3:30 p.m., for a full evening of talent with JJ & Co. at 6 p.m., Whitney Banks at 7 p.m., Kimberly Dunn at 8 p.m. and David Lee Murphy around 9 p.m.

“It is going to be awesome, the stage is already in Darby and we’re looking good,” Davis said. “It is an 18-wheeler between Napa and that big metal building where I’m building a bar across from the rodeo grounds. Next year the stage will sit behind a big bar.”

Next year?

“Next year we’ll have a concert with a big name but I can’t release that yet,” Davis said. “This is the last day of Logger Days and there will be no more logging competitions.”

But keep the third weekend in July on your calendar as there may be special concerts or a music festival.

“We will have something the same weekend in Darby next year,” Davis said. “Plan on it.”