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Belt sander pirates raid Freeland lumber yard

Ken Green of Oak Harbor watches his belt sander, aka “John Le Duck,” take the lead to win first place in the 2010 belt sander race at Frontier Lumber in Freeland. - Samantha O’Brochta / The Record
Ken Green of Oak Harbor watches his belt sander, aka “John Le Duck,” take the lead to win first place in the 2010 belt sander race at Frontier Lumber in Freeland.
— image credit: Samantha O’Brochta / The Record

Arrrrgh! There be pirates roaming the lumber yard, but these buccaneers weren’t carrying their typical tools of the trade.

No flintlocks or cutlasses were in sight. No daggers or dirks. So how exactly would these scallywags take the treasure?

Belt sanders.

Frontier Lumber in Freeland put on a rollicking, pirate-themed day of fun to honor its customers on Friday. Walking onto the scene, the smell of hamburgers and freshly cut wood filled the air. The event was reminiscent of a street fair, with vendor booths, food and entertainment, including a costume contest, raffles and comedy provided by an emcee.

But everyone eagerly awaited the big event: the belt sander race that would start at noon.

Diane Wallace of Frontier Lumber was the brains behind the theme this year. She covered the advertising and all the creative aspects of the event.

“This is our 10th year of doing the races,” she said.

“It’s a big deal,” Wallace said. “There’s even an online belt sander racing circuit. People take it very seriously.”

Racers from all over Whidbey came to show off their belt sanders. Some were decorated extravagantly with feathers and frills, while others raced in their natural state.

The sanders themselves get to walk the plank while racing.

The sanders were set, side by side, in two 8-inch-wide paths on a 50-foot-long track made of wood. The sanders are then connected to lengthy extension cords, which allow them to travel down the entire track.

When it was time to race, the sanders were turned on and took off simultaneously. The sanders zipped down the path in about 2 to 5 seconds.

Ken Green of Oak Harbor won this year’s race, with his duck-shaped belt sander, which he named “John Le Duck.” Costumed with a bandana and an eye-patch, John Le Duck was certainly on the fast track — or was that “fast quack”? — and won every race it entered.

Green said that he’s won before, but he doesn’t remember how many times. It doesn’t matter, though, because the races are just plain fun.

“[The races] are like a logger rodeo,” he said. “Everyone comes, and you get to see people you don’t see all the time.”

He won $300 for his first-place showing, which he said he’ll use to buy tools.

Finishing in second place was Mike Shorey of Clinton. Shorey won last year, and wasn’t bitter about coming in second.

“It’s better than third place,” he said as he pocketed $200.

Shorey said his strategy for next year will be to stick with what works.

Coming in third was Arden Nelson, who raced under the alias of “Johnny Depp,” and took home $100.

Dion McCauley, manager of Frontier Lumber, said it’s a tradition for the company to do the yearly event.

“All of our yards do it,” he said. “It gets people excited, and it’s a fun thing for the community to enjoy.”

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