Jacobs, Local 440, Akwesasne, competes in the column climb.
Several hundred people showed up on July 16 to celebrate the
Ironworkers Festival, an annual tradition which completed a 14th
Several dozen union ironworkers from around the U.S. and Canada
showed up at the event at the Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Resort to
compete for the Ultimate Ironworker title, which this year went
to Al Stanley of Ironworkers Local 12, Albany. Mike Swamp, retired
business manager for Akwesasne-based Ironworkers Local 440, won
Participants competed in seven events, six of which were for
score and one for a cash prize.
"The competitions went well," Swamp said. "Numbers
were a little down from previous years. Hopefully we'll get a little
more next year."
He said many ironworkers from the community are on the job building
wind farms, repairing the Tappan Zee Bridge near Albany and working
construction projects in New York City.
"That's where our manpower is," Swamp said.
"I had a good time. I had a blast. Akwesasne did very well
this year," said Bill Sears, a retired Local 440 member who
was on the original committee that brought the festival here.
It started at the Turning Stone Casino in 2001, but came up
here the following year and stayed.
"This is where the home is. We brought it back here,"
The festival games had several ongoing contests throughout the
day, culminating in the capstone event, the column climb.
Competitors started out rotating through several events.
In the beam walk, they had to walk across a narrow steel beam,
affix a plate with four bolts, then walk back across the beam. First
place went to Mike Papineau of Local 440. Second was Kevin Bingley
of Local 721, Toronto. Third was Rock Louisseize from Local 765,
Bingley of Local 721, Toronto participates in the beam walk.
Milton from Local 580 competes in the rivet catch.
Ferraro, Local 580, New York City participates in the knot-tying
event. The last part of the contest is to rig a sledgehammer
with a knot that allows it to be lifted safely.
In the rivet catch, which was for a cash prize in lieu of points,
half of a two-man team would pick up rivets with a pair of tongs
and toss them to their teammate, who would have to catch as many
as he could in a metal funnel. Billy Ferraro and Dennis Milton won
the top prize. They are from New York City's Local 580. Second was
Bingley and Louisseize. Third place went to Local 440's Tim Rourke
and Vaughn Arquette.
The spud wrench toss saw the ironworkers throw the tools, which
have a tapered end sharp enough to stick into plywood, at a bull's
eye, sort of like a throwing knife. Stanley won first place. Second
went to Rourke. Third went to Gary David.
The bolt toss event called for participants to throw as many
bolts as they could into a bolt bag about 15 feet off the ground.
Its opening was only six or eight inches across. Stanley was the
top finisher. Swamp claimed second place. Rourke won third.
For the knot tie, the players had to tie three knots that would
be used on the job, the final had to support a sledgehammer when
lifted by the rope. The event was timed. Milton won first. Stanley
finished second. Swamp was third.
Rod tying had the competitors tying as many support rods with
wire as they could in 30 seconds. Rourke claimed first prize. Stanley
was in second. Swamp finished third.
For the main event, the column climb, ironworkers while fastened
to a safety harness would see who could shimmy up a 35-foot vertical
I-beam and ring a bell at the top in the least amount of time.
Lakota Jacobs received first prize. Drew Jacobs from Local 440
won second. Papineau finished in third.
There was also a kids' watermelon-eating contest. The top eater
was Thomas Rourke, Tim Rourke's son.
busy to look up, kids at the Ironworkers Festival doing their
best to win the Watermelon Eating Contest. Photo by Marsha
A chicken wing contest had six restaurants submit their wings,
which were labeled with letters. Spectators tried them and voted
for their favorite. Brass Horse Grill won. Other participating eateries
were Magic Mike's, Atomic Place, Bear's Den and Twin Leaf.
Papineau won the women's packing event.
Tanya Papineau won the women's packing event, which was packing
a suitcase and toiletry bag in the shortest time.
Sears said the ironworker games are the "easiest, safest"
events they came up with that represent parts of their actual work.
To the ironworkers who participated, their trade is more than
just a job, it's a local tradition that over the decades has kept
many Akwesasne workers a means to provide a decent life for their
loved ones and helped change the landscape into what it is today,
both at home and around the United States.
"Ironworkers helped build Akwesasne," Swamp said,
adding that many people from the community who aren't in the trade
have immediate family who are.
"My grandfather was a union laborer in the 1920s, my uncles
were all ironworkers. I became an ironworker and my son is an ironworker."
Sears said Local 440, which was founded in the 1890s, now represents
302 members, including 16 who joined this year.
"It's an industry we take much pride in here in Akwesasne,"
Chief Eric Thompson said during the opening ceremony. "It's
an industry that's woven itself into the fabric of our community."
"I extend appreciation and respect to all ironworkers and
their families," Chief Beverly Cook said at the event's start.
"It's a whole culture, being part of an ironworking family."