Western Slope welcomes first PAR 5K Vitality Walk in El Jebel

The Western Slope is gearing up for its inaugural Parkinson Association of the Rockies (PAR) 5K Vitality Walk on Sept. 23. The fundraiser, which has been an annual Denver fixture for over two decades, will take place at Crown Mountain Park in El Jebel, 501 Eagle County Dr.

The Denver Vitality Walk has a 21-year legacy, and has been a significant contributor to the fundraising efforts of PAR, often collecting over $150,000. The funds play an instrumental role in supporting the Parkinson’s community in Colorado. 

Locally, the association backs various initiatives, including Power Punch for Parkinson’s classes and support groups located in Carbondale, Glenwood and New Castle. Additionally, they facilitate educational speaker sessions in the region multiple times a year. All proceeds from the Vitality Walk will funnel directly into these programs and services.

Generous sponsors, such as Alpine Bank and the Delaney Foundation, have come forward to back this cause. The Delaney Foundation was established in memory of Bob and Connie Delaney, both of whom faced the challenges of Parkinson’s disease until their passing.

The event already boasts a promising turnout, with 85 participants registered for the walk.

Interested parties will find the registration process straightforward. They can sign up individually, merge with an existing team, or even form their own group. What stands out is the absence of a registration fee, paving the way for participants to focus on fundraising.

Behind this event’s vision is Suzanne Stewart, who received her Parkinson’s diagnosis in March 2020.

“I got really into researching what Parkinson’s was about and what it meant and what you had to do to slow the progression of this disease,” Stewart said.  “Like many of the diseases we have in our world is to exercise.” 

Following her diagnosis, Stewart’s extensive research led her to participate in PAR’s vitality walk in Denver.

“In 2020, I went to the walk they held in Denver. In the middle of the event, I think to myself, ‘Why can’t we bring this to the western slope?'” Stewart said. 

“Parkinson’s is a diagnosis that isn’t easy for anyone,” she added. “We are just trying to do whatever we can to not only spread awareness but to also try our best to do whatever we can to put an end to this disease.”

Her optimism for the upcoming event is palpable. 

“I’m really excited to see the success of this event and see the community come together for such a great cause,” Stewart said. “A lot of hard work went into putting this event together and I can’t wait to see the outcome.”

For those looking to participate in the walk, online registration is available at www.parkinsonrockies.org/vitality.

If you go…

If you go…
What: Parkinson Association of the Rockies 5K Vitality Walk
When: 10 a.m., Sept. 23
Where: Crown Mountain Park, 501 Eagle County Dr., El Jebel
How much: Free

Second annual Strides for Giving 5K race returns to Rifle in honor of late Garfield Re-2 teacher

The grounds of Rifle will be filled with the sound of running shoes hitting the pavement as participants gather for the second annual Strides for Giving 5K race, set to take place Sept. 23.

The event is more than just a race; it’s a tribute to Christy Walters, a beloved educator from the Garfield Re-2 School District. Walters’ two-decades-long fight against breast cancer came to a heartbreaking conclusion in 2021.

Organizing the event is none other than Walters’ daughter, Taylor Walters, who works as the athletic recreations coordinator at Rifle Parks and Recreation. Taylor has found solace in continuing her mother’s philanthropic legacy through this 5K race. 

Only having a few months to prepare last year’s inaugural race, Taylor is excited for the upcoming event.

“Having a little bit more time and preparation has been nice,” Taylor said. “I have more of an idea of what to expect and I think it’s going to be a great day.”

Last year, the race saw an impressive 60 participants and brought in nearly $8,000. But this year’s participation has seen a dip so far.

“We have about 12 participants right now, which is down from what we had this time last year,” Taylor said. “We are really hoping to get some more people involved so that we can support a great cause.”

The race’s proceeds are channeled into Rifle’s annual holiday meal-kit giveaway. With assistance from sponsors such as Alpine Bank and Shelter Insurance, this initiative spreads cheer from New Castle to Parachute by providing meals during the festive season. The kits have the capacity to feed families of 4-7 people. 

Due to the funds raised from last year’s 5K, the number of meal kits distributed in 2022 surged to 120, a significant increase from the 80 distributed in 2021.

“My mom touched a lot of people and she was always doing so much for others,” Taylor said. “She would always go out of her way for others, so to be able to carry on her legacy gives me a piece of her that I get to continue on.”

Christy’s kindness wasn’t limited to holiday initiatives. She also had a big heart for children in need of winter clothing and would make meals for families grappling with cancer diagnoses, Taylor recalled. For Taylor, the Strides for Giving 5K isn’t just about the run; it’s about continuing the legacy of a woman who always believed in giving back.

For those looking to join the race or support the cause, they can visit www.rifleco.org/recsignup or dial 970-665-6574 to sign up.

If you go…

What: Strides for Giving 5K race
When: Check in begins at 9 a.m., Sept 23. Race starts at 10 a.m.
Where: Centennial Park, 300 W. Fifth St., Rifle
Registration fee: $40

National clay exhibit featured at Carbondale Clay Center for First Friday

Carbondale Clay Center is having their national exhibit of ceramic art, Clay National XVII: The Autobiography of the Object. 

“It has always been my conceit that ceramics is a perfect medium for recording thoughts, feelings and emotions,” said juror Sam Harvey. “The scope of this juried exhibition will be to gather the diversity of voices found in the ceramic field with artwork ranging from an intimately small, beautiful cup, to wall tiles, to sculptural objects, etc.”

The CCC Gallery is hosting their annual event starting Sept. 1, during First Friday, according to a news release.

Each year, CCC’s selected jurors develop a theme for the exhibition, invite a handful of contemporary ceramic artists who emulate the theme and choose about 25-30 works (scale dependent) from the jury pool, the release states. 

“Through the physical act of making and delineating comes a record of an artist’s voice, as well as their viewpoint,” Harvey said. “I have always been curious about the process in which idea becomes a reflective object.”

Awards will be given for Best in Show, Staff Selection and People’s Choice. 

“The consideration for this jurying process will focus on work that is conscious and cognizant of current and historical cultural landscapes,” Harvey said.  

Clay National XVII will be available for in-person viewing at the CCC Gallery and online until Sept. 29. The First Friday opening reception is from 6-8 p.m. 

CCC Gallery hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

“Knowledge of ceramic processes is shared through class and workshop offerings, residencies, lectures, gallery exhibits and programs that reach out to schools and special groups,” the release states.  

If you go…

What: Clay National XVII: The Autobiography of the Object

When: 6-8 p.m. Sept. 1Where: Carbondale Clay Center Gallery, 135 Main St. in Carbondale

Silt’s Highwater Farm grows resilient community through local cultivation

Summer is a time of growth — and not just for plant life.

Highwater Farm in Silt is not only growing produce, but it’s also growing its community.

Simple, organic agriculture, teaching farming techniques, providing food for the local community and giving people a fulfilling summer job is a lot of what the farm implants in the community. 

“The concept is basically using agriculture as a platform to train young people and give them access to what’s happening in their community and access to fresh food and a knowledge of how to grow that food,” said Highwater Farm Executive Director Sara Tymczyszyn.

Garlic hangs to dry as members of the community enjoy a community lunch at Highwater Farms.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

Pesky mosquitoes, squash bugs and having to wake up early were some of the downsides the Youth Crew Workers listed while working on the farm, but the advantages greatly outweighed any annoyances.

Highwater Farm hosted a community lunch on July 26, which gave the Youth Crew Workers a chance to talk about their experiences and what all they learned. 

“Mosquitos suck,” second year Youth Crew Worker Julian Jasso said, making the audience laugh. “They like to eat me, and I don’t like it.”

Besides the bugs and early hours, the crew workers said that being able to work with the community, learn the proper way to grow different kinds of plants and learn how much they are all capable of doing made the experience irreplaceable. 

“I really love learning about how we water plants because I just thought you grabbed a hose and sprayed them down,” Brittany Zepeda said. “I really appreciate the knowledge I learned here.”

Ava Gilbert, the youth program coordinator, said that she noticed many of the Youth Crew Workers gained a new found connection between themselves, along with a new sense of confidence. 

Julian Jasso jokes about bugs loving to bite him at the community lunch at Highwater Farms.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

“They learned they are capable of making a big impact,” she said. “It gives them an increased sense of empathy and greater community emphasis.”

The crew workers, employees and volunteers work long and tough hours with each other, which in turn creates a strong connection between them, causing them to bond more with their peers. 

“Because simple agriculture is hard to access, it teaches hard work and communication, camaraderie,” Tymczyszyn said. 

The food the whole team grows and harvests is sold through a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, and around 15% of the produce is routed to the Farm to Food Pantry program or other local food pantries.

People who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits can also use them to purchase a CSA for half off if they sign up ahead of time. 

Tymczyszyn based the concept off of the Boston Food Project. She worked an AmeriCorp position on a farm that had a youth program, and she said she fell in love with the “youth farm model.”

After getting her teaching license and moving to the area to be a teacher, she ended up deciding to open her own farm with the youth farm model. 

“My background is kind of a combination of nonprofit, work, education and farming,” she said.  “It’s really exciting to have the confluence and all those things come together on the farm.”

Just because the summer is ending doesn’t mean the work on the farm is over. The fall Youth Program will begin at the end of August with about half of the crew workers staying for the continued learning experience. 

Rows of flowers to attract pollinators at Highwater Farms in Silt.
Taylor Cramer/Post Independent

Highwater Farm will be hosting a farm to table dinner at 5:30 p.m., Sept. 8. The event is a fundraiser that is open to the community to come see the farm and celebrate their hard work and harvest. 

People are able to volunteer during the remainder of the season if they want to learn about different farming techniques. They offer open volunteer hours on Wednesday mornings from 8:30-11 a.m.

“People can expect to learn about farming and a wide range of tasks,” she said.

There are also adult employment opportunities open next April through October. 

In late September and October, the farm will have a couple late-season tours, a movie night and a fall brunch. Tymczyszyn said she’ll be looking to hire AmeriCorps members for positions. 

“Part of what I love about that is just working with the community but also working with my team,” she said. “I have an incredible staff, and I have incredible Americorps members. Everyone works really hard and does a really good job.”

Cowboy Up Carbondale returns for 14th annual celebration; proceeds to benefit local nonprofit

Dust off your cowboy boots, and get ready for a night of Western revelry on Fourth Street. The annual Cowboy Up Carbondale  event returns on Friday from 6-10 p.m., blending the rich tapestry of western heritage with the noble cause of charity.

Every year, the event chooses a nonprofit beneficiary to receive its proceeds. This year, the limelight shines on WindWalkers Equine Assisted Learning and Therapy Center, an organization known for its transformative work with equine therapy. 

From their humble beginning with only one horse and two clients, WindWalkers has grown to assist over 100 clients weekly with a fleet of 24 equine therapy horses.

“It’s a great event and it supports a great cause,” Cowboy Up Carbondale Event Coordinator Erin Bassett said “We’re focused on ensuring the endurance and the experience of our western heritage while getting to support community programs that enrich the lives of our residents.”

Attendees can anticipate live western music, food, dancing and both live and silent auctions as part of the evening’s lineup. With an entrance fee of $10, guests will be contributing to a cause that has made a difference in countless lives since the organization’s start in 2005.

WindWalkers is more than just a therapeutic riding center. Its services span across various age groups and challenges, ensuring that everyone finds a home at the ranch.

“Our uniqueness is that we work with individuals from as young as 18 months with a medical script all the way to our aged community,” WindWalkers Executive Director Gabrielle Greeves said. “We have had a 91-year-old woman here that continually came to groom her horse and be with; so we are a therapeutic riding center, but we also offer so much more as well.” 

With its certified instructors, WindWalkers has ventured into equine-assisted learning, collaborating with schools on emotional learning and aiding students with diverse needs ranging from those with IEPs to dyslexia.

WindWalkers staff work with Grace McGlade of New Castle during a therapy session at the Missouri Heights-based equine-assisted learning and therapy center. The nonprofit is where horses and professionals help indviduals and families with challenges from Aspen to Rifle.
Kyle Mills / Post Independent

“We have worked with students even dealing with suicide ideation, so we do get involved with behavioral and mental-health cases as well,” Greeves said. “We even have people battling addiction that are part of our program. This is a place for everyone who feels like they need it.”

The core of the program remains its trusted equine companions. These therapeutic animals play a pivotal role in the treatment process, serving as trusted friends and healers to those in need.

“The horses are the treatment team. They are the trusted friend, companion and the hope and healer that one needs in order to stride forward in their life and toward their goals,” she explained.

WindWalkers has eagerly anticipated this collaboration with Cowboy Up Carbondale. Beneficiaries of the event in 2012, she said she is excited to be able to get the name out about the organization.

“Well, our excitement has been boiling for a couple of months now,” she said. “It gave us an opportunity to go out into our community again and reintroduce ourselves to the community and the many businesses that have popped up in the last several years.”

For those interested in supporting WindWalkers while indulging in an evening of western entertainment, Fourth Street is the place to be Friday. Cowboy Up Carbondale beckons all to celebrate community spirit and give back to those making a difference every day.

For more information regarding WindWalkers, visit windwalkers.org

For more information regarding Cowboy Up Carbondale, visit cowboyupcarbondale.com.

If you go…

What: Cowboy Up Carbondale
When: 6-10 p.m., Friday
Where: Fourth Street, Carbondale
How much: $10

Grand Valley Days returns to Parachute for 115th rodeo celebration

The town of Parachute readies itself for a weekend of celebration, tradition and community spirit starting this Friday. From Aug. 18-20, the much-anticipated Grand Valley Days will take center stage, bringing with it a whirlwind of activities, music and nostalgia.

With a legacy spanning 115 years, Grand Valley Days is not just an event; it’s a testament to the town’s deep-rooted traditions and enduring community spirit. This year, the event promises an intriguing mix of the past and the present, with the theme, “Derby Days.” Attendees are encouraged to don Kentucky Derby-inspired outfits.

Festivities will begin at 6 p.m. on Friday at Cottonwood Park, 100 La Plata Circle, Parachute. Event-goers can expect a number of traditional games like stick horse races, tug-of-war and the always hilarious three-legged race. As the sun sets, live bands will take the stage to serenade attendees with melodies that echo through the night.

One of the musical highlights promises to be Rick Mancuso and the Fyve Star Band. Originating from Grand Junction, the band is renowned for their vibrant performances, covering a mix of country and rock hits from the 1960s to the 1990s. After their performance last year, Mancuso expressed his anticipation for this year’s gig.

 “This band loves what we do. As long as we have the opportunity to perform, we are going to put our hearts into the music that we play,” he said. “We are excited to get the chance to play in front of the community that we hold so dear to our hearts.”

Rodeo participants rope a calf during Grand Valley Days in Parachute in 2022.

A Colorado native who has attended Grand Valley Days as a participant in years past, Mancuso is no rookie when it comes to the rodeo scene, competing in bull riding for nine years of his life.

Saturday’s schedule is packed, featuring the “Derby Days” parade starting at 10 a.m. As the parade winds down, the Main Event Rodeo will kick off, showcasing traditional events like bull riding, calf roping and mutton busting. The sheer adrenaline and excitement of the rodeo are bound to leave attendees on the edge of their seats.

“It really is an event like no other in this town,” Grand Valley Park Association President Amy Beasley said. “We have an excellent group of people who come together every year to make this possible and we also couldn’t be more appreciative to the town of Parachute for helping make all this possible.”

For more information regarding Grand Valley Days, visit gvdays.com.

Friday, Aug. 18 

5 p.m.
Sign up for all Family Games
At Cottonwood Park

6 p.m.
Let the games begin!
At Cottonwood Park

  • Stick Horse Races
  • Tug of War
  • 3 Legged Race and more!
  • Prizes to winners of each division

8 p.m.
Free Music in the Park
At Cottonwood Park

  • Featuring The Basement Brothers
  • Food & Drink Vendors on site
Saturday, Aug. 19

7-10 a.m.
Pancake Breakfast
At Grand Valley Methodist Church

10 a.m.
“Derby Days” Parade
Kentucky Derby style Big Hats, and Big Bucks.

After the Parade
At the lawn of the Center for Family Learning

  • Live music by Alpine Echo
  • Food and merchandise vendors at the Early Learning Center
  • BBQ Benefiting Brent’s Place

4 p.m.
Slack for timed events for the rodeo

At the Rodeo Grounds next to Cottonwood Park

6 p.m.
Sign Up for Mutton Busting on site

7 p.m.
Main Event Rodeo

  • Professional Announcer: Brandon Edwards and W/A Rodeo Co.
  • Mutton Busting
  • Bronc Riding
  • Calf Roping
  • Bull Riding
  • Barrel Racing and more!
  • 3rd Annual Calf Dressing

Immediately following the rodeo:
Live Music
By Rick Mancuso and the Fyve Star Band

Sunday, Aug. 20

1-3 p.m.
Sunday Pie & Ice Cream Social
At the Battlement Mesa Historic School House

  • Live Dixieland music by Noodle Soup

A celebration of women in climbing and cinema comes to the Ute Theater in Rifle

Rifle will be rolling out the red carpet Aug. 26 for a showing of the 2020 rock climbing production “Pretty Strong” during the the much-anticipated Party for the Park at the Ute Theater and Events Center

A film directed and produced by an all women-production team, Never Not Collective, the film captures the adventures of five climbers indulging in the sport of rock-climbing throughout different parts of the world.

“Pretty Strong” Co-Director Colette McInerney recounts how the all-women team came together out of a shared feeling that women’s stories in the outdoor industry were underrepresented. 

“We saw a chance to tell a really cool story about something we were passionate about and so that’s what we did,” she said.

McInerney went on to discuss how “Pretty Strong” was a labor of love and took two years from concept to completion.

 “For me it was by far the biggest project I had done from beginning to end and certainly the other women on the team would probably say they feel the same way,” McInerney said.

The event at Ute Theater promises not just a cinematic experience but also an educational one. Following the screening, McInerney will engage in a Q&A, diving deeper into the behind-the-scenes tales of making the film. In addition, a panel discussion with members of the Rifle Climbers Coalition, professional climbers, and other stakeholders aims to bridge the gap between the town and its neighboring climbing haven, Rifle Mountain Park.

One professional climber, Nina Williams, sponsored by The North Face and featured in “Pretty Strong,” offered insights into what drew her to climbing, 

“Climbing gave me a lot of purpose and direction, especially as a young person,” Williams said. “It’s just been an incredible way to meet people and have this shared thing that brings us all together.”

Williams also touched on her experience at Rifle Mountain Park, a rock she has scaled multiple times after moving to Colorado at 20-years-old, calling it “a climber’s paradise” renowned for its challenging routes. 

“I like to say it’s some of the best sport climbing in the United States,” Williams said. “It’s the epitome of a puzzling climb and the technicality of it is what makes it so unique.”

Beyond the film and discussions, attendees can look forward to a number of other festivities including pop-up shops, music and exclusive drink specials.

McInerney summed up the sentiment shared by many in the climbing community as they anticipated the event. 

“I’m just excited that events are happening again,” she said. “To have this opportunity to bring the rock climbing community together with a special event feels great, especially after everything we have been through these past few years.”

For each ticket sold, $5 will be donated to the Rifle Climbers Coalitions to help maintain climbing access at Rifle Mountain Park. For those interested in attending the Party for the Park event, visit independentworld.co/partyforthepark

If you go…

What: Party for the Park
Where: Ute Theater, 132 E 4th St, Rifle
When: Saturday, Aug. 26 7-9 p.m.
How much: $15

Longtime valley journalist returns to Carbondale, Aspen for book signings

Celebrated journalist and author John Fayhee, a familiar byline to readers of The Aspen Times, Aspen Daily News and the first reporter for the Summit Daily News, is set to embark on a homecoming tour. 

He has book signing events slated for Sept. 10 in Aspen at 4:30 p.m., Sept. 14 at Carbondale’s White River Books, 65B N. 2nd St at 6 p.m.

His journey as a writer began in Silver City, New Mexico, where he attended college before landing his first stint as a reporter for the El Paso Times. His trajectory took him  to Colorado in 1982, landing him in Granby where he worked for the Granby Sky-Hi News. There, he met the future editor of the Aspen Daily News, George Stranahan, who would later introduce him to the Summit Daily News.

His impressive resume boasts several freelance assignments, a multitude of books and notable stints with respected Colorado publications. He even recalls a challenging period juggling responsibilities at The Aspen Times and the Mountain Gazette, a publication which the longtime Roaring Fork journalist co-founded.

Fayhee’s upcoming book, “A Long Tangent: Musings by an Old Man and His Young Dog Hiking Every Day for a Year,” offers a departure from traditional linear narratives. Instead of detailing every footstep of his 1,200-mile hike taken over 367 consecutive days, the book touches on varied subjects, from hiking sticks to vehicles, and dives deep into Fayhee’s personal hiking history — a passion he’s held since childhood.

The British-born, U.S.-dual citizen embarked on this yearlong adventure with two rules: hike for at least an hour daily and ensure it was out in the woods. Joined by his beloved dog, Casey, who has since passed away, Fayhee reminisces about their shared journeys and integrates memories from his hiking career.

For him, this book tour is more than just promotional. 

“This is not my first rodeo,” he said. 

Having toured extensively in the past, he sees this as a “homecoming tour” of sorts. With more than two decades spent in Colorado, many stops on the tour, including Aspen and Carbondale, are familiar territories where Fayhee has deep-rooted connections.

“This will be a virginal experience,” he joked, having never visited the bookstore before.

For those keen to get an early glimpse, Fayhee has arranged for uncorrected proof copies to be sent out digitally. While the tour promises to be a busy one, he remains enthusiastic about revisiting the places and faces that have shaped his illustrious career.

“When you’re getting ready to have a book come out, especially when you’ve been working on it for a long time, it’s humbling,” he said. “I have yet to hold a copy in my hands yet, but when I do, it’s going to be a great feeling to know it’s finally here, for myself and for Casey.”

If you go…

What: John Fayhee book signing
When: 6 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 14
Where: White River Books, 65B N. 2nd St., Carbondale
How much: Free

PHOTOS: A colorful Carbondale Mountain Fair

The stage for Mountain Fair 2023.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent
Carbondale Mountain Fair 2023.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent
Carbondale Police Department right before losing the tug-of-war competition between them and the Fire Department.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent
Carbondale Chief of Police Kirk Wilson joking with some fair goers about making first place losers.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent
Carbondale Mountain Fair 2023.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent
Song Writing Contest at Mountain Fair 2023.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent
The band plays for the crowd at Mountain Fair 2023.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent
Kendall Riley slices into a log of wood at Mountain Fair 2023.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent
One wood splitting competitor runs out to fan another in between swings.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent
Man spraying people with water at Carbondale Mountain Fair 2023.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent
Carbondale Mountain Fair Men’s Wood Splitting Contest winner Matthew Langhorst.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent
Moon Hootch playing under a full moon at 2023 Mountain Fair.
Cassandra Ballard/Post Independent

A new concept of womanhood: Testing strengths through wood splitting at Carbondale Mountain Fair

Each year, Carbondale’s Mountain Fair has a competition of the toughest residents in the area — the Women’s Wood Splitting competition. 

Although there is also an exciting Men’s Wood Splitting competition at Mountain Fair, there is something especially inspiring about watching women in fun costumes annihilate large pieces of wood while the crowd goes wild.

“I’m so happy that I feel like in the last five to 10 years the idea of womanhood is really growing,”  said Kim Pedersen, second place winner of the Women’s Wood Splitting last year at Mountain Fair.

This is a big change from growing up in the 1990s, when there was a more stereotypical idea of what it means to be a woman, like having to be pretty, quiet and never taking up too much space, Pedersen said. 

“We are more so embracing this polar idea of women as being strong and confident and fun and silly,” she said. “I feel like the wood splitting competition is really putting that all on display. It’s more so for me what it means to be a woman.”

Pedersen is in her sixth year of competing after originally starting because women before her inspired her to try it. 

“I always thought that they were so cool and I really just wanted to hang out with them,” Pedersen said. 

Olivia Pevec, a wood splitting competitor for around 20 years and five-time winner, said she started competing in 1999, and has only missed a couple competitions over the years. 

Olivia Pevec gives it her all during the Women’s Wood Splitting competition Saturday afternoon at the 51st Carbondale Mountain Fair.
John Stroud/Post Independent

“Wood splitting is for everyone and it’s actually been fun to see how the women’s competition has kind of bled some of that over to the men’s,” Pevec said.

Pevec competed with the men last year, where she said she had fun, but she’s excited to compete with the women again this year. 

“If I accomplished anything, splitting with the men last year, maybe it was just a little one little brick kicked out of the wall,” Pevec said. 

Both Pevec and Pedersen said they did not do much training for the competition, but wood chopping was not a foreign chore for them. Pevec works as a local blacksmith and Pedersen got her original chops as a wood splitter working at Rock Bottom Ranch a few years back.

“I’m wondering if I prepare for both competitions in the same way, which is mostly just to try to stay calm,” Pevec said, who is also competing in the song writing competition for Mountain Fair. 

“I don’t think I split wood since the last competition,” Pedersen said. “I rely on luck and I do feel like it’s somewhat the luck of the draw with the wood that you get.”

At the end of the day, a lot of what decides the winner does seem to be luck. Some years, the wood will be wet, making it harder for both the men’s and women’s competitions.

Everyone also works with different techniques. They all get to use a second, bigger log to set the wood they are splitting on top of. Some don’t use the log, some use the side of it, some use the center, like Pedersen. 

“I’m always really impressed with Olivia Pevec, I feel like she’s a legendary superstar of the wood splitting competition,” Pedersen said. “She is just so strong and will kind of go right down the middle, which is really impressive.”

Pevec said she has some techniques for chopping but didn’t think she had anything too structured, especially when working with the wet wood. The wet wood really does change the whole atmosphere though. 

“I think we’ve all got to the point where we’re like, wait, this is not nearly as much fun as when the wood goes flying, and everyone gets that wonderful crack of well cured wood,” Pevec said. 

Striking where the wood is already split and practicing to know the weight of the ax and how to support it were two main suggestions Pevec had for beginners. 

The competition is open to all, and although it is competitive, there is still a strong feeling of community and support in it, along with straight silliness. Both Pevec and Pedersen said they loved the silliness and how it made them feel womanly. 

“It’s a place for expression, self expression,” Pevec said.

Gender is also not the main focus of the competition, anyone nonbinary, gender fluid or trans are also welcome to compete, Pedersen said.

“I think it’s a choose your own gender event,” Pevec said. 

Most competitors dress up and if someone is taking too long splitting their wood, supporters come help them. The goal is just to have a good time. 

Be sure to catch both women competing at 4 p.m. Saturday at Mountain Fair, and also be sure to catch Pevec performing music around town.