Tall Timber Days Packs Grand Rapids for 39th Year

Festival brings in hundreds to the streets and businesses of Grand Rapids.

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn.- The smell of sawdust is in the air and the hot summer weather isn’t keeping the crowds from downtown Grand Rapids for the 39th annual Tall Timber Days.

“Been good attendance, very good attendance,” said festival Founder, Dr. Lee Jess. “Again like I said temperature has a little bearing on attendance but it has been good.”

“And if you look around the streets you’ll see a lot of people here filling the streets and that’s what we have it for.”

For almost 40 years Grand Rapids Dentist Lee Jess has brought Tall Timber Days, and crowds of people, to help the local economy.

“We understand that motels have totally filled,” Jess said. “So it has helped a lot and the businesses all up and down the street and in town are benefiting from this.”

Businesses aren’t the only ones marking the event on their calendars.

“A lot of people still they’ll plan events around it. Reunions, weddings, y’know everything, class reunions, everything they have so it gives everybody a chance to do something during the day and during the weekend.”

While there’s so much to do, one place where you’ll always see lines: by the food.

NJ’s Concessions has brought their Tacos in a Bag to Tall Timber Days for the past 5 years.

“The first year we were up here myself and my brother in law, it was 4.5 hours straight that we didn’t get a break,” said Bruce Jorgenson, President of NJ’s Concessions.

“So we decided after that we were gonna have our wives come with us and help us.”

A cashier takes a woman’s order, asking “What would you like on it?” “Everything, except Jalapenos.” Customers can choose what meat and toppings they want in their bagged taco, making it a hit each year.

“We get a lot of repeat customers that come up to us and that stuff and we just, like, people up here are friendly,” Jorgenson said.

But it wouldn’t be Tall Timber Days without some flying timber.

The roar of chainsaws draws about 500 people to each Timber Works Lumberjack Show to see axes chop, and sawdust fly.

“At first you’re a little worried when you get a big crowd but you just go out there and do what you do,” said Lumberjack Entertainer Andrew O’Connell.

“No one else in the crowd can do it so, you’ll amaze everyone.”

These lumberjacks have trained through college, but when the crowd is amped up, shouting “Yo-ho!”, those lumberjacks cut through wood like butter.

“Oh it just builds you up,” O’Connell said. “Makes you, we have a lot of lines we can say if it’s a really good crowd, we’ll bust out all the good funny lines and get really into it.”

For example, O’Connell demonstrates his chainsaw carving prowess, coming out with a lackluster-looking bunny. When asked about details, he replied “de-tail goes in de-back.”

“Just do what we do and have fun,” he said. “That’s the whole point of our show is just us, me and the other Lumberjacks just having fun.”

Making memories like this keeps generations of families coming to Tall Timber Days each year, Dr. Jess said.

“I get young people in their 40s now and they said: ‘y’know Dr. Jess when you started this I was this age, my kids’ age.”

“And I want them to come back and experience exactly what I did as a young person.'”

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