Join us on Facebook: strib.washcoLumberjack Days is by far the largest event of the year in Stillwater, and throngs will descend on the St. Croix River city to partake in five days of revelry that begin Wednesday with an amateur talent show and ice cream social and wrap up next Sunday with the musically choreographed "Thunder in the Valley" fireworks extravaganza.

In between, the action-packed schedule includes lumberjack exhibitions, a chess tournament, a 150-unit parade, athletic events and a music spectacular that features headliners Collective Soul on Friday and Smash Mouth and the Gear Daddies on Saturday.

"It's a festival on steroids," said Dave Eckberg, president of St. Croix Events, the organization putting on the summer shindig. "Across the board, everything we try to do is larger than life."

It's been that way since 1934, when the town staged the inaugural festival paying tribute to Stillwater's logging industry and the birthplace of Minnesota. And that's why it's grown into a "marquee event" that has become a favorite of the locals and a tradition for many out-of state families who plan their vacations around it, said Barb Trueman, a spokeswoman for the Stillwater and Oak Park Heights Convention and Visitors Bureau.

"We do get more phone calls and requests at this time of year," she said. "I think people like to come to Stillwater because it's a cool city right on the St. Croix River. They come anyway, but now put Lumberjack Days on top of that -- it's like a good old-fashioned festival."

Nobody is sure exactly how many people will make their way to Lowell Park during the celebration, but the largest crowds are expected Friday through Sunday.

Stillwater Police and about 50 officers from other agencies will be on duty to ensure that things run smoothly and safely, said Stillwater Police Chief John Gannaway.

On a typical Lumberjack Days weekend, the department will respond to 300 festival-related calls, with a high number involving public consumption of alcohol and disorderly conduct, as well as pleas from parents to help find missing children, Gannaway said.

Lowell Park will be the epicenter of activity and site of the evening concerts. They are free on Thursday and next Sunday, but admission will cost $10 on Friday and Saturday.

Parking is always an issue, and when it comes to finding a spot, Gannaway wishes festivalgoers "good luck." His advice is to park a ways away and "hoof it into downtown" rather than risk a ticket.

"We're pretty vigilant; we pay close attention," he said, noting that many people park illegally on Hwy. 95 north and south of town. "People need to be patient. Traffic will be terrible."

But the festival should be delightful, Eckberg said. "We hope there is something to trip everybody's trigger."

Here are a few highlights:

•Amateur Talent Contest, 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Historic Washington County Courthouse.

•Hairball in concert, 7 p.m. Thursday, Lowell Park.

•Collective Soul in concert, 5 p.m. Friday, Lowell Park, $10.

•5K and 10K runs, 8 a.m. Saturday, downtown Stillwater

•Gear Daddies and Smash Mouth, 5 p.m. Saturday, Lowell Park, $10

•Grande Day Parade, 1 p.m. next Sunday, beginning at Lakeview Hospital and going north on Greeley Street to Myrtle Street, west one block to Owens Street, north on Owens to Laurel Street, then east on Laurel to Pioneer Park.

•Zed Leppelin and the Stillwater Area High School Summer Jazz Camp Band, 7 p.m. next Sunday, Lowell Park.

•Fireworks following the Zed Leppelin concert next Sunday.

•Lumberjack demonstrations and BMX stunt shows, daily in Lowell Park.

Tim Harlow • 651-735-1824 • Twitter: @timstrib