Organizers could not have asked for a more perfect day for the 43rd annual Louisiana Forest Festival held in Winnfield on Saturday, April 22. With a blue, sunny sky and just enough clouds to hold down temperatures, a light breeze flowed through the Timber Sports arena on the hilltop. It was the type of day that parents might want to take their children to the Fairgrounds for a time of fun…and many did, with crowd estimates of at least 1,500.
It was a festival that delivered on all its promises. The “Hope for Winn Run” drew twice the participants as last year. A crowd gathered at the amphitheater for music while children threw Frisbees and found other amusements for themselves. Food trucks and booths along the midway provided “eats” for all tastes, some certainly available only at fairs and festivals. Other tables and booths offered gifts and souvenirs for festival-goers or their kids and grandkids. Down in the pavilions were arts and crafts.
While this is pretty much standard at any festival, what sets this apart is the competition atop the hill: Timber Sports. Challenges with axes, saws, log-rolling and power equipment pay tribute to the timber industry that has driven the local economy for well over a century. Once described as events that allowed those who work in the forests during the week for a paycheck to compete on the weekend for pride, these sports have expanded to include 4-H teams (Winn taking the honors Saturday over rivals Vernon and Rapides), and college teams Stephen F. Austin and Louisiana Tech, to take part with muscle-powered tools only. The high-powered saw competitions are reserved for the professional competitors.
The Louisiana Forest Festival was created and funded through a 1948 act of the legislature under the governorship of Earl K. Long and ran until the 1960’s when the state funding dried up. But when a group of local citizens discovered that the charter was still active, the festival was brought back to Winnfield in 1980, now operating on sponsorships and self-generated monies.
Some years have seen clouds, rains, even damaging storms. Some have seen heat a little too high for confort. But Saturday was ideal. A good time for reflecting on family, life in a small rural community and on the primary industry that supports it.