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  • Writer's pictureTrevor Greenway

Titillating tree tournament towers into town

Leilak Anderson wants to show arborists from across the world just how climbable – and beautiful – Wakefield is.

For three days in late July, close to 50 arborists from the U.S., Canada and Europe will descend on Anderson’s Wakefield farm for the North American Open Masters (NAOM) Quebec tree climbing competition. It’s the first time NAOM has held an event in Canada, and Anderson is thrilled to show off his skills – and his hometown – to all his tree-climbing peers.

“I have some nice trees on the farm, so we knew that would be a good venue for it,” said Anderson. “There are going to be some good-calibre climbers from all around.”

The tree climbing competition isn’t just arborists going up and down trees as quickly as they can, but more of a scenario-themed demonstration, where climbers have to race up a tree and ring bells, which are supposed to mimic a trimmed branch. Other events include climbers racing up a tree to rescue a dummy, which is to simulate an injured person stuck in a tree. How quickly and safely can they get them down? How much damage was done to the tree in the process? It’s all part of the stiff competition, said Anderson.

“There is a certain size of a branch that you get a point deduction if you break — more than an inch branch [and] you’re disqualified,” said Anderson. “We are going to ring bells throughout the tree, and you ring the bell with your handsaw, and it simulates pruning a dead branch. Each station has a different challenge, but it’s demonstrating arborists in their trade. It’s not the fastest that will win, it’s definitely the one that’s safest and the one that innovates and shows the better way to do it.”

Anderson has been climbing and pruning trees in the Hills for the past 20 years, and the work is tough.

“[The competition] confirms what we’re doing and helps us see what others are doing. It is this giant community of arborists getting together,” he said. “The competition is one side of it, but, ultimately, this is about bringing people together and acknowledging what we are doing and learning how to do it safer, better, faster, and then in the weeks after, you apply these things that you’ve picked up. It fills your cup. I don’t know what my career would look like without these competitions.”

The entire three-day event runs from July 21 to 23 and is free for spectators. Anderson encourages people to check it out, as it will be “a bit of a circus.” The events include: an ascent; a work climb; a ninja (speed) climb; a throw line; and an aerial rescue. The top finalists will compete in the master’s event on the last day. Friday will also feature a night climb, which will boast glow lights, music and head-to-head ascent races.

Anderson’s Wakefield farm will also be home to a local market, featuring farmers, producers and artisans during the event. For more information, email or find them on Facebook.

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