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Arborists put work skills to use in tree climbing competition at North Park in McCandless

| Saturday, May 4, 2013, 8:25 p.m.
Mick Stabile, 26, of Meadville, “rescues” a mannequin from a tree during Saturday’s Western Tree Climbing Championship in North Park in McCandless. Five of 32 arborists will go on to state competition in State College May 11.

Even though they spend more than seven hours each day dangling from a tree as part of their jobs, that's exactly where more than 30 arborists found themselves Saturday, perched in branches high above North Park in McCandless.

“It's a good time,” said Tom Hollowniczky, 48, of Independence, Beaver County, as he competed in the Western Tree Climbing Championship, hosted by the Penn-Del Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture. “It keeps you healthy. I guess I just like hard work.”

Though there was a lot of good-natured ribbing and competitiveness among the participants, they said the event helped build camaraderie and allowed them to learn some new techniques and skills from their fellow tree care specialists.

Among the activities, the men scrambled up trees to ring a bell, hoisted themselves up ropes to clang another bell about 50 feet in the air, and pretended they had to rescue an unconscious man dangling in a tree. For that “rescue,” competitors earned points for speed and style points if they reassured the “victim” as they were preparing to lower themselves to the ground.

“I'm coming, buddy! I'll get you down! The ambulance is on the way!” yelled Terry Bohner, 27, of South Park, an employee of Davey Tree Service in the South Hills.

“I haven't ever had to rescue someone like that, and I hope I never have to,” Bohner said.

But Mick Stabile, 26, of Meadville, in his fourth year of competition, worried more about speed, quickly scrambling amongst the tree branches to rescue the mannequin.

“Just get it done,” Stabile said. “Make it as simple as possible.”

Frank Booths, 32, of Brentwood, was disqualified from one climbing event after a handsaw he had fastened to a tool belt came loose and tumbled to the ground below.

Hollowniczky, a co-worker with Booths at Bartlett Tree Experts in McDonald for more than a year, comforted him by saying, “Frank, that's the first time I've ever seen you drop anything out of a tree.”

The winners of the competition will go on to compete against the International Society of Arboriculture's Eastern Chapter winners in State College on Saturday. Those winners advance to the international competition in July in Toronto.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

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