Tennessee is like a second home. It might as well be.
Although I’m a homegrown and proud Kentuckian, my wife Rhonda and I take enough trips to Tennessee, namely Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, to be considered at least part-time residents. We take numerous trips to the Great Smoky Mountains, but every once in a while, we discover something new and exciting.
During our visit last week, along with our dinner stops at the Apple Barn Restaurant and Bennett’s Barbecue, we attended the Lumberjack Feud and Dinner Show one evening and changed our last name from Taylor to Dawson for more than two hours.
When we arrived, we became members of the Dawson family and cheered on our temporary kinfolk on the stage. The Dawsons engaged in a competition with the McGraws, two logging families involved in a dispute after the logging industry became non-existent after the Great Smoky Mountains became a national park. The winner of the competition received the right to claim leftover timber.
“We created the show and feud to celebrate and carry on the history, legacy and culture of the logging industry in the Gatlinburg and Sevierville area, and we’re really proud of to carry on that history,” cast member Andrew Mattison said. “We incorporate the history of our show as much as possible, so everyone can get an idea of what America came to be from the logging industry, where we came from and where we are going with this sport as well.”
Our ticket included the meal and the show. Our menu items included baked chicken, ribs, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, dinner rolls and strawberry shortcake — a good start to a fun evening.
The cast included real ESPN¿lumberjacks, who competed against each other in numerous events, using chain saws and their athletic skills. While the show is sprinkled with humor and entertainment, it’s also of a serious nature. Mattison, a Dawson family member during our visit, is a former world endurance and ironjack champion.
“A lot of our guys are very evenly matched,” Mattison said. “None of us like to lose and it kind of gets blood-thirsty sometimes. The crowd gets into it and we’re really pumped up and we go for it. It’s a tough competition and you win what you can and you make up for the losses with more wins. It’s pretty fun.”
Mattison said the best way to train for the competition and the events is to “just do them.”
“You can lift weights, you can run to get your endurance and strength, but the coordination needed to swing an ax or to climb a tree or do log rolls, you just have to do it,” he said. “There’s no really good way to cross train for (logging events) really. We actually do competitions when we’re not doing a show.”
The fan favorite is the log roll and the dog competition. The cast also hands out timber “cookies” sawed off during the events to audience members. I didn’t receive a cookie, but enjoyed being a member of the Dawson family and taking in the newest show in Pigeon Forge.