Support the Timberjay by making a donation.

Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Piecing it all together: Jigsaw competition proves popular

Jodi Summit
Posted 5/16/24

EMBARRASS- Five hundred pieces. Four sets of hands. Ten teams ready to go, each with their own copy of the same puzzle. The Timber Hall Event Center’s first Jigs and Jaws puzzle competition got …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Piecing it all together: Jigsaw competition proves popular


EMBARRASS- Five hundred pieces. Four sets of hands. Ten teams ready to go, each with their own copy of the same puzzle.
The Timber Hall Event Center’s first Jigs and Jaws puzzle competition got underway shortly after 11 a.m. this past Saturday, and within an hour, the speediest two teams had completed their challenge. While many area residents were out trying to catch their limit of walleyes, these jigsaw puzzle fans were after their own trophy, consisting of bragging rights plus gift certificates to area businesses for each of the winners on the two top teams. The event was part of the Embarrass Region Fair Association’s efforts to bring more community-focused events to Timber Hall.
The idea for the event came from Sheila Smith, who had come to the Timber Hall’s used book and puzzle event in February. Community members had donated used books and puzzles, and dozens of tables full were available for people to browse and take home, free of charge, during the monthly fair association fundraiser pancake breakfast. Smith said she got the idea after seeing all the used puzzles at the event, and asked one of the fair association members if they thought such an event would be possible. The fair association is quite open to new ideas, and this was one they thought would become a fun community event. And while Smith’s team didn’t place in the competition, she was excited to be part of the action.
Before the actual competition began, fair association organizers explained the rules, which were simple. When given the sign, all teams could open their boxes, dump out the puzzle pieces (already removed from the plastic bag), and start to assemble their puzzles.
The puzzle was chosen as not too easy and not too hard.
“I looked for a puzzle with lots of colors,” said fair association volunteer Sue Beaton. The chosen puzzle featured a garden scene, along with a variety of backyard birds, but the leafy green background gave the puzzle some challenge, and those leafy-colored pieces were the last assembled by every single team competing.
Puzzlers from Embarrass, Ely, and other parts of the Iron Range, were among those who took part in the competition. Each player paid a $10 entry fee and each team gave themselves a name: The Cold Spot Puzzlers, Falling into Pieces, Disturbing the Piece, We Came- We Jigged- We Sawed, were just some of the examples, suggesting that most of the participants had a penchant for puns as well as puzzles.
And while some teams were all friends or relations, others were strangers, meeting up for the first time during the event. Puzzlers ranged from early teens to seniors. Each team had their own table, with the 10 tables spread out in Timber Hall.
Hands quickly got busy flipping pieces over, sorting by color, and finding edge pieces. Different teams had different strategies, though most seemed to start working on assembling the birds and gardening items that made up the focal points of the puzzle image.
The most experienced jigsaw enthusiast in the room was Leanne Negley, from Babbitt.
She described her most recent puzzle accomplishment, finishing a 42,000-piece puzzle (one of the largest that you can buy), that took her two months and was 20 feet long when finished. Negley was recovering after knee replacement surgery, so had one hand on an ice bag on her knee, while the other was quickly assembling pieces. Her two teammates weren’t nearly as experienced, but both were intent on completing their puzzle as quickly as possible.
Eleanor Nyquist, a 12-year-old from Ely, was one of the youngest participants at the competition, working on a team with her mother, grandmother, and aunt. Grandma Connie Stocks was the most experienced puzzler at their table and wasn’t letting a splinted finger slow her down. Rounding out the team were Connie’s daughters, Jordyn Stocks and Jaymie Stocks. Connie said her favorite puzzles are thousand-piecers that have pictures of horses on them, and she often works on puzzles with Eleanor.
Teenager Starla Forsman and her father Joshua, along with Starla’s friend Morgan Scarbrough, were busy figuring out their best strategy as they picked out edge pieces. Starla said she was the biggest puzzle fan of her group.
Teams appeared to be neck and neck at first, but after a half hour there were three teams that had made substantial progress. Soon two teams had pulled into what looked like a tie: Leanne Negley’s team of three, and the Stocks family team of four.
Things got a little testy for the Stocks as four sets of arms raced to finish up the last 40 pieces or so, with some bumping that sent one piece flying, but luckily landing on the table not the floor. The Negley team, with only three sets of arms, was more relaxed but also was feeling stressed as the final pieces were falling into place. These two teams were on opposite sides of the hall, so neither had any idea how close the other was to finishing.
The Stocks family, Connie, Jordyn, Jaymie, and Eleanor finished with a time of 57 minutes and 45 seconds. Less than 30 seconds later, Negley, with team members Christina Forsythe and Ellen Root slotted their last piece in place.
To keep track of upcoming events at Timber Hall, follow the Timber Hall Events Center on Facebook, as well as watching for community notices in the Timberjay. Plans are underway to set the date for the next jigsaw puzzle competition.

There is actually a name, dating back to the 1700s, for jigsaw puzzle enthusiasts. Dissectologist stems from the earliest origins of these puzzles.
John Spilsbury, a British mapmaker, drew a world map on a piece of wood, which he then dissected into pieces for children to reassemble. These puzzles soon became very popular with children. In the late 1800s, with the invention of the jigsaw cutting tool, more intricate wooden puzzles were created, and soon they all started going by the name jigsaws.