For anyone who has spent time working to ensure that their garden or yard or home landscaping looked not only presentable but beautfiul, certain questions routinely pop up: When should I plant seeds for my flower bed, and is that the best time to plant seeds for my vegetable garden, too? How do I remove that tree stump from my backyard without removing my leg in the process? What's the deal with those damned weeds growing back in the same place year after year, and how do I make them stop? Answers to these and other outdoor questions will finally come via this weekend's Two State Forestry Conference & Expo. The RiverCenter in Davenport will host the event from September 8 through 10, providing three days' worth of nature-themed education and entertainment beginning Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and running through Saturday at 2 p.m. Admission is $6 per person, with youths 14 and under admitted free.

According to coordinator Mark Jackson of Interstate Resource Conservation & Development - a not-for-profit agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture - the Two State Forestry Conference & Expo has "been in the planning stages for a number of years." After finally being made possible by a grant from the U.S. Forestry Service and the Riverboat Development Authority, the expo's primary goal is, says Jackson, "to promote the wise use of forest resources in the area" through a series of exhibits, displays, and demonstrations.

While Jackson says that several of Friday's educational sessions, on such topics as Landowner Assistance and Successful Timber Sales, "pertain more to woodland owners" than the amateur outdoorsman, Saturday's seminars especially - which will cover such topics as General Tree Care, Backyard Conservation, and Landscaping with Perennials & Wildflowers - "are targeted to folks in the area."

"Much of the weekend," agrees the expo's assistant conference planner, Shari Baker, "is geared toward the home gardener."

Baker stresses that "the biggest component of the event is the educational component," and more than 30 area exhibitors will be at the expo to provide answers to frequently (and not-so-frequently) asked questions regarding home gardens, landscaping, and outdoor technique. Numerous hand-crafted wood products will also be on display, as will forestry equipment for both professionals and green-thumb hobbyists.

Yet in addition to the event's educational value, it's a safe guess than many of the expo's attendees will be there for the entertainment as well, provided this weekend by the internationally renowned Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show. Now celebrating its 30th year of outdoor-themed competitions and demonstrations, the show's performers have appeared on CNN, Letterman, and Leno, and have brought their acts to such countries as New Zealand, Australia, and Africa.

The Paul Bunyan Lumberjack Show features original "sporting events" such as axe-throwing, log-rolling, precision chainsaw-racing (!), and cross-cut sawing, and will open on September 8 with a group of familiar presences participating in the Celebrity Lumberjack Challenge, in which local celebs will face off at the expo's preview party.

Among the area notables scheduled to engage in Lumberjack Show competitions are KWQC-TV's Sharon DeRycke, the Rock Island Argus' John Marx, and River Cities' Reader Publisher Todd McGreevy, although Baker reveals that, perhaps to no one's surprise, "so far no one's chosen log-rolling" for their public performance.

No human celebrities, perhaps. But the highlight of the weekend might well turn out to be a four-legged star: Sandy, the Log-Rolling Dog, from Animal Planet's Pet Star show. Sandy has been delighting audiences with her Lumberjack Show tricks for more than a year, and was recently filmed for a segment of the Japanese televsion series Amazing Animals.

A four-and-a-half-year-old Jack Russell terrier weighing in at roughly 16 pounds, Sandy began her log-rolling training at seven weeks of age and, says Sandy's trainer and Lumberjack Show organizer Lee LeCaptain, "wasn't scared of it at all." LeCaptain says that it took Sandy "about two or three years" to become fully proficient with her skills, and like a lot of four-and-a-half-year-olds who discover a new favorite pastime, the pup is now obsessed with the activity. "When she's not on it [the log]," says LeCaptain, "she's barking to get on it."

A full schedule of the weekend's Two State Forestry Conference & Expo can be found at (, and tickets to the event are available by calling (309) 764-1486 extension 4.

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