Port Angeles logging company to be featured on two reality TV shows
Gabe Rygaard stands in front of his vehicle shop off Monroe Road in Port Angeles. -- Photo by Chris Tucker/Peninsula Daily News
By Tom Callis, Peninsula Daily News
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In June, Rygaard Logging, Inc. of Port Angeles was filmed as part of a new NBC show, "America's Toughest Jobs."
It also will be featured on the next season of "Ax Men," shown on cable's The History Channel.
Both shows are produced by Original Productions, which also produces "Deadliest Catch" on The Discovery Channel and "Ice Road Truckers" on The History Channel.
The first episode of "America's Toughest Jobs" aired on Aug. 25, and the series will run through November.
Gabe Rygaard, Rygaard president, said the episode involving his company likely will be aired in five weeks.
"Ax Men" will be filmed this fall and aired in the spring.
Contacted in March
Rygaard said Original contacted him in March about being featured on "America's Toughest Jobs."
Original was looking for a logging company to feature on the show, and found the firm after contacting the American Film Institute office in Seattle, he said.
"They filmed how me and my dad react to the camera," he said.
"I guess I did good enough."
"We were thrilled when we found [Rygaard]," said Jarrod Harlow, series producer for "America's Toughest Jobs."
"After a few really good conversations, we felt that he was perfect."
Harlow said Original Productions was looking for someone with a strong personality, one who is successful in the logging industry and has a "wealth of knowledge."
"We were looking for bosses who are firm in what they believe, and want to educate and teach the broader viewing audience about the industry," he said.
"He certainly knows his business in and out."
Respect for loggers
Harlow said Original Productions considered featuring other logging companies in Washington state, Oregon and California.
The purpose of the show, Harlow said, is to pay respect to the people who work in difficult, dangerous jobs.
"Logging is a tough job," he said.
"It's a deadly job.
"Only the toughest will survive in it."
Harlow said that Variety lists "America's Toughest Jobs" as one of the top five shows on network television.
Rygaard said Original did some pre-production filming of the logging company in April for "America's Toughest Jobs," and liked what it saw enough to feature the firm on the show and select it as one of the companies to feature on the second season of "Ax Men."
"America's Toughest Jobs" takes 13 contestants and has them compete in difficult occupations.
The jobs include crab fishing, ice road trucking, gold mining, oil drilling, monster truck driving, bullfighting, bridge crew, mountain rescue — and logging.
The show is down to 11 contestants, and Rygaard said the logging company's episode won't be featured until six are left.
Since one contestant is eliminated off the show every week, Rygaard won't be featured for another five episodes.
Film crew of 80
A film crew of more than 80 people filmed the episode on a 50-acre parcel owned by the company off of Palo Alto Road southeast of Sequim.
The six contestants handled chain saws, climbed trees, pulled cables, set chokes and performed other logging duties at the property as part of the competition for about a week.
"They physically did the job," Rygaard said.
The contestants worked in teams and by themselves, but in the end, one was eliminated.
"They didn't know the first thing about logging," Rygaard said.
"We were pretty hard on them."
Rygaard said only a couple acres of the property was used for the show.
Rygaard said Jeanna Wolfe of NBC's "Today" show interviewed him June 7 about "America's Toughest Job."
The interview aired on the show Aug. 25.
An "Ax Men" film crew will begin filming the company at the end of the month and through December.
Other logging companies from around the Pacific Northwest also will be featured on the show, but Rygaard said he didn't know which they are.
The first season featured four logging companies in northwestern Oregon.
The show followed the logging companies for over three months.
"I'm hoping they don't get in the way too much," Rygaard said.
"We still have a job to do."
Keeping vehicles running
Steven Eygleston, Rygaard shop foreman, said he hasn't thought much about the camera crews, and he will just be focused on keeping the vehicles running during the filming.
"It will at least get some publicity for the area," he said while working on a lowboy trailer at the Rygaard vehicle shop last week.
"I'll just keep the vehicles going for them."
Unlike "America's Toughest Jobs," there is no elimination process on "Ax Men."
But the show still tallies the amount of logs harvested by each company after every episode.
It creates a sense of competition that Rygaard said isn't usually there.
"There is competition usually for bidding on jobs, but not for the amount of timber logged," he said.
Rygaard said he also feels that the show's first season focused too much on the individual loggers and not on the industry as a whole.
Rygaard said he spoke to Original about his concerns, and said the production company was already looking at making some changes with the next season.
The timber industry as whole — from logging through the mills — will be featured on the next season, he said.
Rygaard said he doesn't know what to expect from the publicity.
"It's not logging, but it's about what we have been doing our whole lives," he said.
"We're just along for the ride. We'll have to see where we land."
Reporter Tom Callis can be reached at 360-417-3532 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: September 07. 2008 9:00PM