Pole climbing returns to Evangeline Agricultural Exhibition and Acadian Festival
ABRAM-VILLAGE — Audiences at the upcoming Evangeline Agricultural Exhibition and Acadian Festival will once again marvel and cringe over the high-flying antics of Jerry Arsenault and his pole-climbing family.
© Michael Nesbitt/Journal Pioneer
Jerry Arsenault, left, joined by son Jeremy and brother Marcel, have a tough time putting on their poker faces during a practice for the pole-climbing demonstration they will be reviving for the 2013 Acadian Festival.
Jerry, owner-operator of the Branch Manager tree-trimming service, borrowed from his career as an arborist to promote a demonstration of skills at the festival during the woodsmen competitions of the late 1980s. The popularity of the event kept him returning to the festival year after year, with a wider variety of skills and thrills added as the tradition grew.
“We got them to put up poles to demonstrate as part of the woodsmen competition. Swinging evolved to standing and dancing on the tops of the poles, performing skits and introducing a zip-line” as part of the act, recalled Jerry.
His brother, Marcel, is also involved in the forestry industry and added his own experiences from among the foliage as part of demonstrations, as did other members of their companies.
That was until Jerry retired the act five years when he turned 60.
Popular demand was not to be denied, however.
"Someone must have spiked my coffee," Jerry laughed when asked why he revived the show.
With Jerry on board, the exhibition installed new poles to host the event.
The 100-foot pole is still the foundation, however, a less-sturdy-looking support pole will carry the weight of this year's show, adding to the drama.
While the performers are confident in their skills and abilities, they are continually conscious that their antics are not for the faint of heart.
"It's different, a lot of people don't do heights," Marcel assessed audience interest.
For the performers, it’s a fun time to clown around using the skills and training that they have developed, he admitted. For the audience, he supposed, it’s a show that everyone can see, regardless of where they are located in the crowd.
This year's performance will include some hypnotism, “high-stakes poker,” as well as Marcel and Jerry's 92-year-old mother, Denise, and Jerry’s 33-year-old son, Jeremy, getting in on the act.
“Three generations; people will start thinking we are a monkey family,” Denise joked.
Jeremy was involved for a few years before his father retired the show, having chosen to join the company after an initial career choice as an aviation technician.
He was about 10 when the show first appeared, and remembered the large crowds at the time.
"People always looked forward to it," said Jeremy.
Though the show has been brought out of retirement, there is no guarantee that future exhibitions will be able to claim it. Jeremy teased that it depends on how long the poles last. Jerry was more immediate in his consideration, suggesting it depends on what they put in his coffee next year.
Desmond Arsenault will narrate and control the show, which takes place early afternoon Saturday and Sunday, but one never knows what might happen. Each of the performers are acutely aware of the demands of the jobs and the same applies to their performances.
"There is always a danger — equipment failure or something forgotten," Jerry admitted.
"Gravity never sleeps.”
For the full schedule of events for the 111th annual festival, which begins Thursday, visit www.expositionfestival.com.