LINCOLN DAYS: Needed: Ax swingers and pole riders for Pioneer Games

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By Linda Ireland

 Finding willing participants is one of the most difficult things of organizing the Lincoln Days’ Pioneer Games.

“You can’t find a lot of guys who want to swing an ax anymore,” said Mike Eastridge, who has overseen the Games for nine years.

Some of the events, like rail splitting and crosscut saw, are based on skills that would have been essential to pioneer living. 

Others are “just plain muddy fun,” according to the Lincoln Days website. There is the pole ride where the competitors sit astride a log while trying to knock each other into a muddy pit; tug-of-war over the same muddy pit; and the bucket brigade where team members carry water from the creek.

“The pole ride is definitely a crowd-pleaser,” Eastridge said.

Four teams have challenged for a trophy for the last several years. This year, however, there may be only three as Eastridge hasn’t heard back from an out-of-state team.

Seven events will take place at Creekfront Park on Saturday, Oct. 6 before the parade begins at 2 p.m. A mandatory team captain meeting is at 10 a.m. and the rail split team competition will begin about 10:30 a.m.

The “water events” – pole ride, tug-of-war and bucket brigade – will be held after the parade.

On the afternoon of Sunday, Oct. 7, the professional, amateur and junior rail splitting events will be held at Creekfront Park beginning at 2.


Teams may consist of eight-to-12 members with at least two women per team. All competitors must sign a release form before games begin.

Pioneer games may be limited to the first eight teams who register and pay their entry fee. 

There is a dress code: no shorts, no tennis shoes, no cleats; and a code of conduct: no profanity or vulgar language and no alcoholic beverages.

Entry fee is $10 per person, with a maximum of $80 per team, non-refundable.

The team with the most points at the conclusion of the games will receive a team trophy and a cash prize.

Awards will be presented at a ceremony to be held at the conclusion of the games on Saturday, Oct. 6. Awards will be presented from the Main Stage on the Square.

Rules will be available at www.lincolndays.org or the Lincoln Days office at 60 Lincoln Square, Hodgenville.

Each team that participates in the Pioneer Village (a campsite beside the creek) will receive a 10-point bonus.

Team Rail Split – Three team members split a whole log into eight good rails.

Egg Toss – Two team members, one man-one woman, try to toss an egg the farthest. If the egg touches the ground, the team is disqualified.

Crosscut Saw – Two team members, one man-one woman, saw a section from a log in this timed event.

Hand Corn Shelling – Two team members shell ears of corn by hand.

Horsehoe Toss –  Two team members, one man-one woman, toss four horseshoes at a stake.

Water Boil – Three team members, two men-one woman, attempt to heat a container of water over an open fire. The woman carries the water from the creek and carries the matches. No paper or special starters can be used. Wood, containers, matches, bricks and grates will be provided. Hatchets, axes or knives may be used to make kindling.

Water will come from the creek and must be fetched in the container provided by the Pioneer Games director.

Fire cannot be started until the women return from the creek with the water and the matches.

Spoon Relay – Four team members, three men-one woman, pass a wooden spoon in a relay over a course.

Tug-of-War – Six team members, five men-one woman. Last team standing wins.

Pole Ride (separate events for men and women) – Team member tries to stay astride a pole while trying to cause opponent to fall. Competitors are not allowed to touch the opponent with anything other than the pillow provided, the pole or the stands.

Bucket Brigade – Eight team members – seven men-one woman – attempt to fill a 55-gallon barrel with water from the creek. 

For more information about the games or forming a team, contact Lincoln Days at 358-8710 or email Iris LaRue at abe@lincolnmuseum-ky.org.