Man of the Cliff: Bringing brawn to the lawn
October 15, 2016
AVON — While it's a favorite event among locals and visitors alike, the Man of the Cliff amateur woodsman competition only comes around once per year. That means whomever is crowned leading lumberjack Sunday retains the title until next fall.
Last year, reigning champion Kelly Hanagan defended her title for the women, and Brian "Peach Fuzz" Welch defeated her husband, Sean Hanagan, to upset the first couple of the flannel.
Welch will attempt to defend his title Sunday, with speed wood chopping scheduled to start at 10:30 a.m., the spear throw slated for 11 a.m., the hammer toss at 11:30 a.m. and the caber toss at noon. The competition is expected to last until 2 p.m. or so, with scores totaled and winners determined by 3 or 4 p.m.
FALLING INTO YOU
Saturday's main event was the group tug-o'-war, in which Welch's Bonfire Brewing team was defeated in the first round by newcomers Team Pardee On, led by Battle Mountain High School Class of '06 graduate Alex Gonzalez. Pardee On — named after the group's friend Tony Pardee Seibert, who died in an avalanche in 2014 — took on Team Celine Dion in finals, defeated them handily.
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The Celine Dion team changed their name to Team Reigning Champions before this year's tug-o'-war, after defeating the Bonfire Brewing team last year in one of the biggest upsets in Man of the Cliff history. The team was comprised of Matt and Mike Stanley, Matt Langhorst and Justin Conrad. Last year, Mike Stanley came in from Richfield, Utah, just for Man of the Cliff, but this year he couldn't make it so the team recruited announcer Mike Palmer.
"I guess I joined the right team," Palmer said.
Matt Stanley came in from Englewood to participate in Man of the Cliff.
"Six years ago, my first year at Man of the Cliff, we put together a tug-o'-war team and got beat by Bonfire Brewing," he said. "Last year, we finally beat them, so it was great to defend the title again this year."
With irony and machismo intertwining into a thread that holds the event together, many come out simply to try events such as the speed wood chop or the archery competition, where natural talent can in turn make a regular Joe feel like a singular professional for the day.
That's what brought out local Jack Cassato last year, and he had so much fun he bought his girlfriend, Stephanie Boyd, a ticket to this year's competition so she could give it a try.
"I was so nervous," said the longtime local, who is originally from Texas.
Boyd has been attending Man of the Cliff for years but never thought about competing until Cassato insisted.
"She did pretty good," Cassato said. "And just having her do it really made the event as fun as it could be for both of us. She had people cheering her on. It was great."
FIRST DESCENTS WINS
While the competition is intense, it's all for a good cause.
The proceeds of the Man of the Cliff event go to First Descents, a nonprofit that was started in Eagle County to help young adults who are struggling with cancer. When the event first started, it took place in Red Cliff and raised approximately $4,000. Now happening every fall in Avon, it raises about 10 times that amount every year.
Local businesses such as Weston Backcountry and Bonfire Brewing have been supporting the event since the very first year with cash and prizes. The "World's Most Best Taco" from the Rocky Mountain Tacos food truck has become a staple snack. Frozen mugs are auctioned off, which Bonfire keeps full all event. Unlike a typical frozen mug, the Man of the Cliff mugs are actually made of ice, and will only last for the event itself. Tim Wertin said the highest one was auctioned off for $80.
"I am thinking about making some nicer ones for tomorrow, after seeing how popular they were," he said on Saturday.