If it isn’t already, this might be the year that the Three Rivers Roleo officially becomes a big deal.

Fox Sports North will air the Onalaska log rolling competition sometime in July, marking the first time since 2005 a log rolling event has been televised, according to organizer Katie Rick.

The event will draw top competitors from around the country, sponsorships have grown from five last year, to 24 this year, and organizers have added a celebrity rolling event. It’s currently listed on the United States Log Rolling Association calendar as the next upcoming, major professional event.

Oh yeah, it’s a big deal all right.

Held the second Saturday in August for its first seven years, moving the eighth annual Three Rivers Roleo up a month to July 11 allows FSN to give its viewers something to watch during a time of year when fewer events are scheduled.

“We are expecting a great group of competitors at this event,” said Rick, an Onalaska native who is a professional log roller herself, currently ranked fifth in the world.

With a viewership of 2 million, adding FSN to the mix this year has helped draw in big name competitors like nine-time world champion lumberjack J.R. Salzman, five-time world champion Brian Duffy, number-two ranked Gretchen Greene, former women’s world champion Jenny Atkinson and local pros like Emily Christopherson of Bangor, who is ranked fourth in the world.

“With the added element of TV, it’s going to be heighted experience,” Christopherson said. “Everyone is going to bring their A-game and there’s going to be some fierce competition.”

With the number of top names attending the event and the evenness of the competition, Christopherson said there are six or seven rollers who could win the women’s event.

“It all depends on how they roll that day,” Christopherson said.

The roleo – think “rodeo” and “rolling” mashed together – began in 2008 as an amateur competition, growing in scope, becoming a pro event in 2013 and increasing the first-place purse to its current value of $500 for the top man and woman.

Rick never deliberately set out to get the Three Rivers Roleo on the small screen. She said her goal over the past near-decade of planning has been to grow the tournament a little, and add something new, each year.

“This has been a huge leap,” Rick said of the move to TV.

Pros start rolling at 11 a.m. and the amateurs will follow. Amateur divisions break down into these age groups: 7 and under, 8 to 10, 11 to 13, 14 to 17 and adult novice.

Held at the Great River Landing on the Black River at the western end of Irvin Street, Onalaska, the roleo is expected to draw about 1,000 spectators. There will be three parking lots at the top of the hill for public use, including the parking lot at the Festival Foods Support Center, 237 Second Ave. S. There will be a drive up, drop-off below the hill and handicapped parking as well.

Admission is free. Blue Moon Saloon and Roadhouse will sell concessions beginning at 11 a.m. Offerings include burgers, brats, pulled pork, chips, fruit, potato salad and soft drinks. People will want to bring something to sit on and probably some sunscreen and insect repellant.

Leading up to the event, organizers will host a celebrity log rolling event at 1 p.m. Tuesday, July 7. Among the match-ups featured will be Onalaska Mayor Joe Chilson versus La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat, La Crosse Loggers play-by-play announcer John Pappadopoloulos versus Mid-West Family Broadcasting’s Dan Deicher, and contests between some yet-to-be-determined local television station personalities and possibly a match between a pair of area pageant winners.

For more information, check out the new website, www.threeriversroleo.com, or look it up on Facebook.

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Entertainment and county government reporter

Randy Erickson covers arts and entertainment and county government for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at 608-791-8219 or randy.erickson@lee.net.

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