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Deaf Timberfest attracts people from 47 states, world

August 28, 2004|by WANDA T. WILLIAMS

wandaw@herald-mail.com

WILLIAMSPORT - About 1,200 deaf and hard-of-hearing people from 47 states and such places as Japan, Africa and The Netherlands gathered near Williamsport for this week's Eastern Deaf Timberfest.

In its 10th year, this year's event is being held at Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp-Resort.

It's the largest gathering of deaf and hard-of-hearing people in the world, organizers said.

Activities at the event include logging, ax throwing, horseshoes, volleyball and outdoor activities for adults and children.

Lori Novak, 46, of Brockton, Mass., has attended Timberfest for six years. This year, she took top honors in the women's Class D chain saw competition.

"Every time I come, I always enter a contest," Novak said through an interpreter.

Novak appreciates the event. She said as a child, events such as Timberfest didn't exist for deaf and hard-of-hearing children.

Today, the event is a family affair for Augusta Seremeth, 10, and her brother Chaz, 7. The two attended Timberfest for the second time. Augusta said she, her brother and mother all are deaf. Augusta said Timberfest is an opportunity to meet other deaf children.

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"They've got carts and activities, and we get to go camping and sleep in a tent," Augusta said.

Timberfest will be the last summer vacation activity for Augusta and her brother before they start classes Monday at Maryland School for the Deaf in Frederick, Md.

Ron Markel of Williamsport, who was born deaf, is one of Timberfest's founders. He said he came up with the idea after watching lumberjack sporting events on ESPN.

"We decided to establish an event that would be more conducive for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals," he said.

Markel said the event is a wonderful opportunity for deaf and hard-of-hearing people who never have participated in outdoor sporting and camping.

In addition, he said Timberfest enhances educational and social development for children and adults.

"They leave here learning so much from each other," he said.

Monica Muli, a college student from Kenya, traveled from Pittsburgh to attend this year's Timberfest for the first time. She said it's the largest gathering of it's kind she has ever seen.

"I'm thinking about doing the tug of war tomorrow," she said.

Meanwhile, Cheryl Smith, general manager of Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Camp-Resort, said she has gained a new level of respect for people who are deaf and hard of hearing.

"The most impressive part is the patience of deaf people due to the fact that they are living in our hearing world," she said.

Participants filled some 900 area hotel rooms and as many as four area campgrounds, Smith said. She said the event took 16 months to plan and she learned some sign language in preparation.

Activities end today at 6 p.m., and organizers said they expect 300 more people to participate.

To learn more about future Timberfest events, you may go to the organization's Web site at www.easterndeaftimberfest.org.

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