Right up front: from the painfully scripted banter to the dutiful progression of the feats of strength, the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show is one huge slab of cheese.
And when I say cheese, I’m not talking a fine, aged cheddar or a fragile brie, but good, old-fashioned, mostly synthetic Velveeta: brightly colored, resilient, indestructible, and best served hot.
When the situation’s right, ain’t nothing wrong with a little Velveeta.
And when you’re in Ketchikan, Alaska, there ain’t nothing wrong with buying your ticket and rooting for your (arbitrarily assigned) team of lumberjacks at the Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show. Yes, it’s cheesy. Yes, it’s hokey. Yes, it’s touristy. (There’s a reason the show is staged about a block from where the cruise ships dock.)
And yet, embraced for what it is, the Lumberjack Show can be a lot of fun. You sit in the glorious Alaskan sunshine (if you’re lucky), watching burly young men compete to see who can saw logs faster, climb poles higher, and skitter across the surface of the water better than the others.
I’ve paid a lot more to watch a lot less.
To keep it all from feeling like a Chippendales dance show gone awry, there’s a perky female host (“These boys love my cookin’!” she assures us with a wink) who presides over the staged competition. To make things as easy as possible for the audience, she divides onlookers into two camps: those who cheer for the Americans and those who cheer for the Canadians.
To keep the third-graders focused, there’s lots of humor centered on flatulence, groin injuries, and naughty (but decidedly family friendly) double-entendres. And to keep certain other demographics happy, at least two muscular cast members are guaranteed to appear soaking wet in clingy garments by the end of each show.
I mean: it is what it is, and it’s hard not to love a show that embraces its own campiness so enthusiastically. Photo opportunities with wet, sweaty lumberjacks are on offer as you file out, so tip the boys a buck or two, won’t ya?