WAUKESHA - On Feb. 21, Jeff Cummisford and Richard Pierce will
cast off their modern clothes and don 13th-century Norwegian warrior
costumes to re-enact the legend upon which the American Birkebeiner
cross country ski race is based.
Cummisford, of Waukesha, and Pierce, of Verona, will wear metal
helmets, carry swords and shields, and use wooden skis as they make
their way along a 54-kilometer trail from Cable to Hayward. Pierce’s
daughter, Lyndsey Lewis of Fort Collins, Colo., will ski with them
portraying a Norwegian princess, and her son, Piercen, 1, will meet
them at the finish as the famous Prince Haakon that the Norwegian
warriors saved during the country’s civil war in 1206.
"I know it was important to them," Lewis said of why
the men wanted to re-enact the legend. "And it’s their 25th
year of skiing the Birkie, and I think it was symbolic of their
friendship and our families’ friendship."
Lewis, Pierce and Cummisford each wrote an essay telling why
their families should be selected to portray these famous
Scandinavians that the Birkebeiner memorializes.
Cummisford said he and Pierce have been friends for 25 years,
introduced to each other by their children, Lewis and Kevin
Cummisford. 2009 will be the 25th year Pierce participates in the
Birkie and Cummisford’s 23rd.
"Dick and I thought it would be a fun way to give back to
the Birkie and be ambassadors for the spirit of the Birkie,"
Normally, it takes the friends a little over three hours to ski
the Birkie, but with their 20-pound costumes, wooden skis and stops
to socialize, they are expecting it to take about double that amount
According to the Birkebeiner Web site - www.birkie.com - about
8,000 skiers will participate and 20,000 spectators will be present.
Also present will be Pierce’s parents, who are in their 80s,
and members of both the Pierce and Cummisford families.
Pierce, 55, said he enjoys cross country skiing because of his
ability to be outside and to get physical exercise in winter. He
said he began to ski when Lewis was a baby, and he would carry her
on his back until she began to ski at about age 4. His two sons,
Richard and Ted, later followed on skis.
Cummisford, 57, started the Lapham Peak Ski League and the
Waukesha West High School Cross Country Ski Team, on which Pierce
served as assistant coach. Cummisford also encouraged his children,
Krista and Kevin, to participate. In fact, it was through Kevin
Cummisford and Lewis’ friendship that Jeff Cummisford and Richard
Pierce became friends.
Now, after years of friendship the two men wanted to honor the
sport that helped bring them together.
"He and I have literally skied around the world, and we’ve
been friends for 25 years. And we’ve done many wacky things
together, and this is going to be one more in a long strand of wacky
things," Pierce said.
Cummisford and Pierce ski several times per week in preparation
for the Birkie, in addition to biking and other physical activities
in the off-season. Lewis said she runs and tries to ski as often as
possible for the long cross country ski race.
"It’s to pay back the gratitude and to encourage the other
skiers who are doing it, maybe for the first time," Pierce