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Thursday, March 30, 2023

2023 Tony Wise Birkie Spirit Award Recipients

The Tony Wise Birkie Spirit Award is given for outstanding contributions to the growth and development of the American Birkebeiner, and the sport of cross-country skiing.

Birchleggings Club Board Members, Steve Carmazon and Dave Balsiger, gave out the awards at the Birchleggings Awards Breakfast on February 26, 2023. These are Steve’s words from the ceremony.

Twice, in 2010, and 2020 we have given this award to two different recipients, and we are going to honor two different couples today, and, as you will soon see, both have much in common with Tony.

Paul and Steve with Jay & Judy Hoeschler
Many of the past recipients of this award have been Birchleggers, or, in the first case today, related to Birchleggers. They made giant contributions to improve the infrastructure of the Birkie trail, coming forward to do so, of their own initiative, demonstrating leadership, giving of their time, talent, and treasure, and in this case, to build the tangible things we see, use, and benefit from.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my fellow Birchleggers, (you know who you are) who’ve likewise contributed of your, time, talent, and treasure, to build the tangible and intangible things that make this event and trail, the success that it is!

Besides starting Telemark ski area in 1947, building a lodge, founding the American Birkebeiner, and the Worldloppet, being a two term Mayor of Hayward and founding the Sawyer County Historical Society, Tony Wise also had a thing for bridges, the first International Bridge was at Telemark, Circa 1974, some of us here remember skiing across it, before finishing the early Birkie Races. If you’ll excuse the Pun, the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) wisely honored Tony’s Legacy, in 2015, with the International Bridge over Highway 63.

Tony also showed his interest in history, by founding Historyland, and in 1960, honored this areas' legacy of the timber industry, by starting the World Lumberjack Championships.

One of the sports in those championships is Log Rolling. Our first recipients today started a company called Key Log Rolling, making plastic logs, that, when filled with water, simulate a real log, to practice the sport of log rolling.

They took the initiative to sponsor the first permanent bridge on the Birkie course at County Road OO, installed in 2018, making that road crossing much safer. For this, we profusely thank Judy and Jay Hoeschler!

Dave with Heidi & Don Becker
The second of our recipients this morning, are both Birchleggers, and, like Tony, have a thing for bridges. Their last name should be familiar to most Birchleggers, as their law firm sponsored the Birkie for at least one year, with the law firm's name was on our race bibs.

One half of this dynamic duo is one of only two people to have been at one time both on the ABSF Board and a member of the Birchleggings Club Board. The Bridge bearing their name, was installed over Highway 77, on October 28th, 2020, and was dedicated on August 14, 2021. Several of our board members attended that dedication. Both the Birchleggings Club, and several well-known Birchlegger families also donated to help pay for it.

Dave Balsiger announced that Don and Heidi Becker, & Family, as the second recipients of the 2023 Tony Wise Birkie Spirit Award.

See the Tony Wise Spirit Award page for a listing of all the award recipients.

A special thanks to Kelly O'Day for the photographs.

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