Railsplitting Festival ends with National Splitting Contest and traditions

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[September 18, 2017]   LINCOLN - On Sunday afternoon the Abraham Lincoln National Railsplitting Festival continued at Postville Courthouse and Postville Park, along with activities at the Cronin Brothers VFW.

At the courthouse, right after the lunch hour five teams enjoyed participating in a water boiling contest. The teams were expected to start a fire using kindling from small pieces of wood provided, what they had nearby such as leaves, and bring it to a hot blaze. An iron cooking grate was over the fire. Once the blaze was high, a large tin can full of water was set atop the grate, and everyone waited to see which tin can would come to a full rolling boil first.

The teams used different tactics to increase the speed of the boil. Some took hard wood and created a wall around their tin, working to funnel the heat to the water. Others depended on their very large fire to do the work, and some up a piece of wood over the opening of the tin to keep the heat from escaping.

The first team to bring their water to a full rolling boil was Jackson and Rebecca Johnson and David Carter. The winners received a certificate showing their first place finish.

After the fires had been put out and the area cleared, the Junior Railsplitting contest was next. This contest is designated for youngsters under the age of 16 years old. Within the group of competitors this year, there were some who were close to that cut-off age, and others who were quite a bit younger. To make it fair for everyone, the older contestants were required to split their log into four rails, while the younger kids were asked to cut their piece of wood into three rails.

Competitors for this event were Dean Tenvey of Franklin, Indiana; Corbin Vannoy of Bloomington; Ronnie Alley, Lyndsi Alley, Austyn Huskins, all of Lincoln; and Trevor Wimberly of German Town.

Heidi Mueller served as the announcer and also the time keeper for the event. She walked about the field watching and encouraging the contestants. The contestants had the option of having a coach during the event, which was a person who had experience in rail splitting and could give pointers to the kids.

The first place winner was Corbin Vannoy, who split four rails in three minutes 30 seconds. Second place was Trevor Wimberly with four rails in four minutes 30 seconds. Dean Tenvy took third with two rails in five minutes 54 seconds. Austyn Huskins completed the competition with a time of six minutes 15 seconds for two rails. Of the brother and sister competitors, Lyndsi and Ronnie Alley, Lyndsi won out on that personal competition with four rails in seven minutes and 40 seconds and her brother did four rails in eight minutes 55 seconds. The winner received a certificate and all the kids received participation ribbons.

After a short break to clean the field and set new logs, the final event of the day drew near. Before the national competition, Bob Rankin served as the narrator for the re-christening of the city of Lincoln.

As Rankin read the narrative, Abraham Lincoln interpreter Gray Simpkins cut the watermelon and squeezed juice into a tin cup. He then “christened’ the town pouring the juice of the melon on the ground.

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Afterward, Mr. Lincoln cut up the watermelon, and the first piece was delivered to Marjory Ott, wife of the late Charlie Ott. Rankin offered a brief comment about the passing of Ott this summer, and how Ott was for many years the Lincoln community’s own (impersonator of) Mr. Lincoln. He then asked that everyone observe a moment of silence in memory of Charlie Ott.

Local vocalist Lesleigh Bennett sang the National Anthem, then the contestants for the final competition of the year got to it.

Vying for the title this year were Jonathon Norin of LeRoy, Cody Freidlein of Bloomington, Chris Freidlein of Gibson City, Bob Rankin of New Holland, Travis Pilchard of Downs, and Evan Coombs of Bloomington.

Once again this year, Chris Freidlein made quick work of splitting the log into eight rails, with a time of only three minutes 48 seconds. Freidlein beat out the second best competitor by almost seven minutes.

Second place went to Jonathon Norin with 10 minutes 16 seconds, third was Cory Freidlein with 10 minutes 33 seconds, and the fourth and final paying place was Evan Coombs with 16 minutes 39 seconds.

For this event, Darius Knauer served as the announcer urging the contestants on, and also urging the audience to cheer and offer their own encouragement to their favorite competitor. When the event was over, the prizes were handed out by Mr. Lincoln.

With the final competition of this year’s festival concluded, Bob Rankin offered a few closing words. He said they would love to someday see a winner of this competition from Lincoln or Logan County. He noted that the organization has been around for well over 40 years, and the group is always looking for new members. Anyone who wants to take part in Association activities iss welcome to come and speak with him. He said those who want to learn to split rails can be taught by Association members.

He also noted that the Association will be splitting rails for Lincoln College soon, so it would be a good time for new members to come and get acquainted with the Association and the art of rail splitting.

The Association also sells split rails, some even from today. Anyone who would like to purchase rails can contact Rankin or other Association members.

[Nila Smith]

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