forest festival in Mason County
By Rachel Hansen
From Alaska to Northern California, logging towns are an iconic part of the Pacific Northwest. Mill towns, log sorts, boom towns and even the notorious skid row all have their roots in this historical legacy. With Mason County’s seventy-ninth Forest Festival fast approaching, it is a good time to reflect on this distinctive forestry heritage and the Bunyan sized spirit that still lingers in these communities.
Hood Canal hosts celebrations certain to engage every generation. Fondly dubbed “Washington's Wild Side” the area welcomes families and individuals wanting everything from a relaxing getaway and authentic community festivals– to extreme adventure in the wilderness.
Family Fun and timber history
The classic Carnival fun starts in Shelton, Washington on Thursday, June 1 with a full-scale fun center on 1st Street running through June 4. Saturday (10AM) the streets will once again be filled with families setting up to watch the Family and Pet Parade which precedes the 2023 Paul Bunyan Grand Parade. Enjoy over 75 parade entries — including floats and displays, animals, and decorated logging trucks and forestry equipment. After the Parade families will head to nearby Loop Field to enjoy a logging competition and vendors. In the evening the celebration moves uptown for live music and spectacular fireworks as the sun sets.
The parades in early years attracted as many as 30,000 people from all over the region to Shelton to see - in the words of an early press report - “the dramatic Forest Pageant, the thrilling parade and the exciting contests in which loggers demonstrate their skills at falling, bucking, tree topping and truck driving.”
Early Mason County residents had their own unique ideas of fire prevention. The first Mason County Forest Festival honored the area’s logging history by showcasing the value of timber, while demonstrating the importance of safeguarding the forests against destructive fires. At the same time, the US Forest Service teamed up with the Ad Council to educate the public about forest fires, and on August 9th, 1944, the first Smokey the Bear ad was run. The tagline “Only you can prevent forest fires” wasn’t developed for a few more years, but Smokey was an instant and lasting success.
The wide streets built to accommodate logging trucks and the active mill at the foot of town are evidence of these strong timber roots. Even the recently built “roundabout” is designed with no curb or decorative planters to allow the trucks of raw logs arriving at the mill and taking fresh cut lumber from the mill clear passage – across the top!
To view the full Mason County Forest Festival Schedule including Sunday’s car show and the Royalty Court Tea in July, check out the 2023 Event Program online or visit www.masoncountyforestfestival.com.
more hood canal happenings...
Mount Ellinor in the Olympic National Forest is a 6.2 mile hike (3344’ elevation) that follows forested slopes to fantastic panoramic views of the Olympics, Hood Canal, Lake Cushman and even Mount Rainier. The south slopes of the Olympic range offer a variety of hikes with different skill levels – all with spectacular scenery. Ablaze with wildflowers in the spring, cool hidden swimming holes in the summer, a chance to see spawning salmon in the fall, and snow capped peaks in the winter, there is never an inopportune time to hike Hood Canal.
Pedal the rails along the decommissioned Simpson Logging rail line for a scenic 12-mile workout with Vance Creek Railriders. This gentle, but vigorous unique ride is suitable for all ages. If you get tired there is a motorized railrider to give you a little extra push up the hills. The excursions run daily though the summer. Visit www.vcrailriders.com for more information.
Playing on a Scandinavian tradition of crossing the equator to "age” their Aquavit spirit with the rocking of the boat, Hoodsport’s Hardware Distillery came up with a unique celebration in 2018. Today that “Crossin” of Hood Canal has turned into a low tide celebration at the Hoodsport marina — complete with a Aquavit “grotto” under the pier, grilled oysters and Nordic specialities on the beach near the beer and wine garden, a ceremonial “barrel” parade through town and a non-motorized paddle race across Hood Canal to follow the barrel crossing. As the tide comes in the festivities move up into the street with a barrel tasting at Hardware Distillery and live music and more seafood at the Fjord Oyster Bank. CLICK HERE for more information on the Fjordin Crossin event.
Head to Shelton for Bluegrass From the Forest, an invigorating three-day music festival featuring national Bluegrass artists including Alan Bibey and Grasstowne, The Kathy Kallick Band, Heartbreak Pass and Farmstrong, jam sessions and workshops for kids and adults. The expanded camping (just $15/night) with its forest backdrop hosts over 20 acres for families to find their own areas to enjoy the music and activities. With two stage areas, a beer and wine garden, workshops and family activities including Chick’s Kids Music Workshop, Midnight Hot Dogs and an all-ages Country Dance, there is plenty for everyone to do. This year the event will also have host local food trucks as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner menu served from the on-site kitchen. Early Bird ticket rates available through June 20, get tickets HERE.
Since 1964, the Skyline Drive-In south of Shelton has been providing family memories along with great flicks. The recent pandemic has solidified the need to keep these heritage sites open with an old school way to enjoy concerts, graduations, as well as movies! Experience outdoor tailgate nostalgia with a double feature under the stars – there is always plenty of “scary” films and family fare. Visit www.skylinedrive-in.com for more information.