POTTSTOWN PA – As if jumping into the Schuylkill River on New Year’s Day wasn’t enough of an adventure, the organizers of Sunday’s (Jan. 1, 2012) well-attended Polar Bear Plunge at Pottstown’s Riverfront Park offered visitors the additional entertainments of a fruit cake roll (it will become a new regional tradition,” borough Mayor Bonnie Heath proclaimed) and the return of a Christmas tree toss.
Whether tradition lies ahead for the prospect of rolling a fruitcake the farthest down a paved path is anyone’s guess. But yes, Virginia, there actually is a history – and a sufficient amount of muscle, too – behind the notion of throwing a fully branched tree through the air like a javelin, and measuring the distance it flies.
Such contests reportedly began centuries ago among lumberjacks and had nothing to do with replacing last year’s calendar, but everything to do with profit.
Woodsmen of old didn’t get paid until their lumber sold, so competition was keen among loggers to get their goods to market faster than their chopping colleagues. To do that, historians say, they attempted to throw their felled trees closest to crews that were stacking the wood they cut. The sooner their pieces were stacked, the sooner the buyers arrived, and the sooner loggers earned their commission.
Machinery moves and stacks cut lumber today, but tree tossing is still revered in places like Europe, where annual contests are held. The most recently reported tree-tossing record was filed last year (Dec. 16, 2010), when The Metro newspaper said a competitor in Gadow, Germany, threw a 5-foot tree about 40 feet.
By comparison, those who were turning trunks Sunday along Pottstown’s banks of the Schuylkill were capable of less than half that distance.
- Watch a video (above) of one contestant in Pottstown’s New Year’s Day Christmas tree toss, or see it at The Post’s YouTube user account.
- Nuthin’ Says ‘New Year!’ Better Than A Schuylkill Swim
With Video and 13 photos. The crowds came out again Sunday to Riverfront Park in Pottstown, to watch a few dozen brave souls run headlong into the not-yet-freezing Schuylkill River, reveling in the New Year and laughing in the face of the potential for a head cold.
- A Real Capper To Pottstown’s New Year Day Event
Swimmers who wanted to make a fashion statement Sunday at Riverfront Park did so with odd things on their heads.