Annie Oakley Festival attendance up at York Woods

A whip artist attempts to snap off Styrofoam cups during a whip speed and accuracy competition at the 2014 Annie Oakley Festival at York Woods. (Bob Robinson photo)

YORK WOODS – “You should have seen our attendance last night,” Judy Hathaway, Annie Oakley Committee first vice-president, said. “Great turnout!” Saturday morning saw cars parked both inside the gate and outside for walk-in visitors… Some were watching the National Whip Speed & Accuracy competition; others were listening to Spittin Image. Still others were checking out vendor offerings…

Bill Gunkle, Annie Oakley Committee president, confirmed it. “I don’t have exact numbers yet, but we had a much better turnout than we did last year.” Gunkle said he thought some of that might have to do with their new location in York Woods.

A few visitors signed up for one of the events, the Pole Toss. Robert Wiest managed an eight-foot toss, beating a predecessor by two feet. “It was kind of awkward,” he said. “I got it up. Then… now what am I going to do with it?”

Many were watching; not many wanted to pick up (and toss) a pole nearly twice as long as they were tall. Frank Hart was challenged to see if he could beat Wiest. He “took the challenge” and managed a 12-foot toss. It was likely the winning toss of the day.

According to Hathaway members of a semi-pro football team showed up Sunday to take the Pole Toss challenge.

Another contest, according to Annie Oakley Committee member Hannah Linebaugh, was what they called “Super Farmer.” It was a speed event… run to a bale of hay, grab it, carry it around the markers and back. Fastest time wins. Linebaugh did it in 10 seconds, only to be beaten by Wiest in seven. Another entrant, Jake Brown stumbled, but still won the day with six seconds.

The 2014 Annie Oakley Festival kicked off July 25 and ran until 5 p.m. July 27. Drawing good crowds was the annual Melodrama presented by the Darke County Civic Theater: “Haunted Hijinks… The Ghastly Ghost of Dead Man’s Gulch.” Visitors also had an opportunity to take a free bus tour of Historic Places in Darke County, including Memorial Hall, the Darke County Courthouse, important locations in Annie Oakley’s life and a trip to Annie’s grave in Brock Cemetery before returning to York Woods.

A variety of entertainment options were offered to visitors, including one not on the official list of activities: a 50-50 shooting contest. The contest Saturday boasted 11 contestants. It was won by Madison Brown.

The whip handlers attracted a large crowd for a series of three contests… chop the Styrofoam cups off the posts; then a right-hand left-hand version of chopping the cups and finally an Indiana Jones version.

“We have some of the best whip handlers in the world here,” said the announcer. “When you hear the snap of the whip, you’re hearing a tiny sonic boom. The whip snaps at 768 mph.” Different degrees of accuracy by skilled whip handlers pointed out the difficulty of the competitions.

Hayley Maher, Miss Annie Oakley 2014, was on hand to greet guests and answer questions. She typically stayed close to her official greeting area, but at one point had wandered over to the whip competition. The 14-year-old sharp shooter seemed to be watching the contest closely.

“Going to do that next?”

“Nope,” she said, grinning.

2013 Miss Annie Oakley Courtney Osborne talks with Annie Oakley Committee First Vice President Judy Hathaway and President Bill Gunckle. (Bob Robinson photo)

One of the contests offered to visitors over the weekend was the pole toss challenge. A semi-pro football team stopped in on Sunday to test their strength. (Bob Robinson photo)
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