Timber! Lumberjacks compete in the U.S. Championships at German Fest

MILWAUKEE -- The sounds of motors, saws and axes cut through the air at Henry Maier Festival Park.

“You need to be fit, you need to be focused," said TIMBERSPORTS professional athlete Arden Cogar. "And daggonit, you got to be pretty strong.”

The top lumberjacks in the entire country have descended on Milwaukee this weekend.

“We’ve got our Top 20 pro athletes and our Top 8 collegiate athletes," Roger Phelps, Corporate Communications Manager for STIHL Power Equipment, said. "All vying to see who is going to be the U.S. champion.”

In conjunction with German Fest, the BMO Harris Pavilion is the site of the 2017 STIHL TIMBERSPORTS U.S. Professional and Collegiate Championships.

“When you’re up close and you’re personal," said Phelps of the fan experience. "You can actually start to feel how hard these guys are hitting the log.”

Competitors must hack their way through six different events, based on traditional logging skills, in search of the top overall score.

“It doesn’t matter how strong you are in the chopping, if you can’t saw," said Cogar, a 2012 U.S. Champion and runner-up last year. "You’re not going to advance, you’re not going to do

well. You have to be good in all six disciplines.”

This is the very first time the national championship has been contested in Milwaukee. But Wisconsin has a storied history with the sport. The World Championships are held up north each year in Hayward.

“The great thing about Wisconsin," Cogar said. "Is that people know the sport.”

“We were at a competition and a guy mishit," said Phelps, remembering the perfect example. "And this little old lady said, ‘Oh, he’s not going to recover from that.’ I’m like, ‘How do you know that?’ ”

A keen observer, as all eyes in the lumberjack world are on Milwaukee this weekend.

Qualifying began Friday, narrowing the field down to the top eight professionals. The championship event begins at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday. The collegiate championship starts at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday.