The Great Alaska Lumberjack Show

If you’re a purist looking for a “raised in the woods, knew every tree” type lumberjack, this show isn’t for you. But if you’re like most folks who want a taste of Ketchikan’s lumber history, you’ll enjoy an entertaining hour of comedy and drama featuring young athletes in flannel who try to outdo each other in several logging events.

The Lumberjack Show honors an industry that was the backbone of Ketchikan’s economy from the late 50s to the 80s. Back then it wasn’t unusual for 350 loggers to arrive on floatplanes come Friday night and then party until Sunday, when they would go back for another week of rough, tough, dangerous woods work. (In those days, the bars didn’t close until 5 am, so it was also common to see camp bosses flying in on Monday morning searching for loggers who had missed their flights back).

Another phenomenon at the time was the “tramp logger,” who worked two weeks, came in town to spend his paycheck and then joined another crew. During the heyday of Ketchikan logging, tramp loggers could join a different crew every two weeks and not run out of camps.

The Great Alaskan Lumberjack Show infuses history and details like these and also highlights the competitive side of lumberjacking as a sport. The show is produced by Rob Scheer, who comes from venerated family of lumberjacks and jills in Wisconsin. (He has also introduced the lumberjack way of life to folks from Africa to China and many points in between.)

The Ketchikan show runs rain or shine, with spectators enjoying the chopping, sawing, tree climbing and axe throwing from the comfort of cushioned and covered seats in the stands. It’s just a block from the cruise ship docks, so it’s an easy walk , but you could also take the free downtown shuttle. It’s also quite popular – with 3 to 4 shows a day from May through September, so it’s a good idea to buy your tickets in advance.