Darren Dean shows off his crosscut skills during a lumberjack show. Dean will be bringing his show to Sooke for Canada Day. (contributed)

Sooke getting lumberjacks back, and that’s okay

Logger sports making a return 16 years after the demise of iconic All Sooke Day show

There will be a new addition to the 2020 Canada Day celebrations, and Sooke Lions Club Canada Day chair Steve Wright is thrilled with the change.

“We’ve had multiple requests over the years to bring back some logging sports and make them a part of our Canada Day events,” Wright said.

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“It’s really a part of our history and heritage, and I can’t think of a better activity to include in the celebrations.”

He said that a lot of people in the community still remember All Sooke Day, where logging sports played a significant role.

That event was cancelled in 2003 after 69 years of operation when the Sooke Community Association decided the event was outdated.

An association spokesperson at the time issued a statement saying: “Just as the two-man cross cut saw and the steam donkey became outdated, so too has this annual event …”

But that viewpoint has, for the past 18 years, been a point of contention in the community and the move by the Lions club to revive the activity has met with significant support, including the support of Council.

In October, council voted to increase its Canada Day event funding by $10,000 to allow for the logging sports to return.

“I think this is a great idea, and it’ll be very good for tourism,” Mayor Maja Tait said.

In an ironic twist, the company bringing the lumberjack show back to Sooke has ties to the community.

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Darren Dean, the owner of West Coast Lumberjack Shows, lived in Sooke in 1996 and once helped to organize All Sooke Days.

“I still have a soft spot for Sooke and a lot of great memories,” Dean said.

“It’s a great community with wonderful people.”

As for the show, Dean, who spent more than 15 years in the forest industry, believes it’s important to remind people of the history of the activities on display.

“It’s nice to be able to remind people that if it wasn’t for logging, B.C. as we know it would’nt have existed. The lumberjack era may have largely come and gone, but the memories continue.”

But the show goes beyond the raw skill sets of the lumberjacks (and jills). Although it provides an action-packed entertainment package that focuses on logging skills, there’s a lot more going on.

“We’ll be doing three shows of about 45 minutes, featuring tree climbing, axe throwing, tree chopping and sawing. But there’s also a lot of humour and a chance for members of the public to try their hand at the activities,” Dean said.

“They’ll find out that it’s a bit harder than it looks, but it’s all just a lot of fun.”

Canada Day celebrations are headed up by the Sooke Lions Club, but are a joint effort of a much larger committee that includes most of Sooke’s service clubs and agencies.

“We’re all very excited about this addition to the events. We think that it will help to draw a lot of people from Greater Victoria and beyond who’ll come to Sooke to celebrate Canada Day with us and see this great show,” Wright said.


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