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The Wilderness of the North

Going Wild at the 17th Annual Kapuskasing Lumberjack Heritage Festival

Larry Berrio takes the band way up north for a first-hand experience of the Canadian back country at its best!



     
 

Spending time in nature and experiencing wilderness is a part of what makes us Canadian, I think. Now in Newfoundland and Labrador, that might mean spending time out in the ocean with the whales and icebergs. In Saskatchewan, you might be looking up at that big prairie sky. But in Northeastern Ontario, that means trees. And outside of our national and provincial parks, that also means industry. Jobs. And hard work. I’m talking about maybe the most Canadian career of all: the lumberjack.

The People

Our ancestors had to tame the forests before they could live there and once they cleared a spot to live, well, they needed jobs to keep their families outfitted with essentials like ice skates and hockey sticks.

The logging industry is such a part of our culture there’s even a film about it. Remember that funny one from your childhood, the Log Driver’s Waltz? And in honour of all that history and backbreaking hard work, the town of Kapuskasing holds the Lumberjack Heritage Festival des bûcherons every year. One of the craziest, friendliest, and most fun festivals I’ve ever had the honour of playing. 

This three-day, family-friendly party lets you live a day in the life of a lumberjack with tonnes of competitions like axe-throwing and chainsaw bucking, plus there’s a prize for the best-dressed lumberjack. If that’s not your thing, there’s lots more. Juggling. BMX stunt shows. An outdoor marketplace. An authentic lumberjack camp. Fireworks. And of course, live music from yours truly and some other great bands. If you haven’t been yet, make plans to go. And if you’ve attended, then you know what I’m talking about. It’s a real trip.

The Music

So we pulled into the beautiful town of Kapuskasing from the Hillbilly Hoedown in Massey early Saturday morning. Got set up. Did our sound check, took in the sights, got psyched up for our gig—and what an incredible show it turned out to be. 

By the time the sun went down there was an electricity in the air. The set up and décor in the arena was beautiful. They had the stage blanketed with black drop cloths and LED lights that lit up the entire arena. The crowd was amazing and jammed the front of the stage—everyone rocking out. Playing in smaller Northern Ontario communities is such a rush. They’re some of the most enthusiastic crowds, and everyone is so friendly.

The Land

After our amazing show on Saturday, we headed out Sunday for a guided ATV ride with Bobby and Guylaine Tremblay and my cousin Trent Westell, who’s an avid ATV rider like me. Candace Fortin from Cabin Fever Motorsports & Marine in Kapuskasing kindly loaned us the ATVs.

Man. What a rush. You think you can see all the landscape in Ontario just by riding a few trails, but it’s not true. Every community across the province has something different and very special to add.

Kapuskasing added some beautiful farm fields to some high rolling mountains to some of the nicest rivers and railway crossings I’ve seen yet. I’ll remember this gig for a long time, and I’m thankful for the opportunity to visit Kapuskasing and be part of the Lumberjack Festival and meet all the amazing folks that live up there in that beautiful spot.

I’ll end with a pretty cool quote about nature and wilderness and being Canadian from one of our former wilderness-loving prime ministers, Pierre Trudeau. It sums things up pretty good about why we Canucks love our outdoors so much. “I know a man whose school could never teach him patriotism, but who acquired that virtue when he felt in his bones the vastness of his land, and the greatness of those who founded it.” 

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for my next adventure!

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