Ladies On A Train

forest festival on hood canal

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-seventh 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.

A  summer-long timber celebration and unique activities certain to engage every generation– Hood Canal and South Puget Sound are fondly dubbed “Washington's Wild Side” welcoming families and individuals wanting everything from a relaxing getaway and authentic community welcome – to extreme adventure in the wilderness.

parade, pageant, and paul bunyan

Paul Bunyon

A giant Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue OX welcome visitors to Forest Festival Timber Days events.

Smokey The Bear

Smokey Bear and forest fire prevention are part of the core themes of the 77 year old Forest Festival event.  Smokey is also celebrating his 77th birthday.

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.

As was Mason County’s Forest Festival. The first parades 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 Forest Fest Parade

Giant logs adorned the 1946 Mason County Forest Festival Parade, photo ©Mason County Historical Society.

Early Forest Fest Parade

Wayne Allen as Paul Bunyan leads the parade through Shelton, 1954. Photo ©WA Forest History.

Simpson Logging

The 1947 Forest Festival Parade featured clear cut timber, a new product for the area.

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!

Therefore when COVID hit in 2020, it was understandable that the loyal volunteers hung on as long as possible before canceling their beloved festival. As 2021 rolled in, with much of the same pattern, they determined not to idly stand by. With a community spirit as tall as the firs around them, festival organizers  “Zoomed” to brainstorm an ambitious event that spanned the entire summer and involved the whole community. Starting with the scheduled Forest Festival dates in June and ending with the optimism that large groups would be able to gather again – with the Paul Bunyan Grand Parade and Fireworks Extravaganza scheduled for September 18, 2021.

#timberstrong all summer long

Forest Queen

Izzabella Hiatt-Jackson was crowned Queen of The Forest.

Forest Festival Royalty

The 77th Mason County Forest Festival Court was crowned this March in preparation for the annual celebration.

Named “Timber Days,” the event celebrates Mason County’s rich forestry heritage with three evening weekend events – June 4/5, July 30/31 and August 20/21.  Live music, movies, games, activities, timber displays, vendors and food are the hallmarks for this street celebration.

The traditional Mason County Forest Festival weekend (June 4) begins with a premier showing of Dreamworks’ Spirit Untamed (PG; 2021). Following the film, the 2021 Mason County Royalty Court will be escorted through the streets of downtown Shelton to reveal their parade float design. The event includes live music on two stages, a classic car show-off, COVID conscious children’s activities and crafts, antique forestry displays, a corn hole championship and an illuminated lantern parade down the center of Railroad Avenue at dusk.  As night falls, grab the popcorn and get cozy in your lawn chairs and blankets for some classic forestry flicks under the stars.  

Friday’s entertainment includes Salzer Creek on the Tollie Stage. Saturday welcomes country singers Leah Justine and Jonathan Harris to the Evergreen Square stage and beer garden.

July’s festivities celebrate Shelton’s (aka Christmastown, WA) stature as the Christmas Tree Capital of the Nation. In 2019 Shelton and Mason County successfully attempted a Guinness Wold Record for Most Lit Christmas Trees. Beating the Hallmark Channel with a whopping 797 trees, Shelton is the perfect place to ignite the “Christmas in July" spirit. Saturday, little princesses are invited to high tea with the forestry court at a Queen’s Tea at the historic Simpson Colonial House in Shelton (reservations necessary). August’s event is all about Smokey the Bear, forest fire prevention and fire safety awareness.

Get more information on these free festivities, along with an updated schedule for Forest Festival & Timber Days at www.masoncountyforestfestival.com

more hood canal happenings...

Sky House

The Skyhouse in Union features a tower room with wraparound decks and views of Hood Canal and the Olympics.

Mount Ellinor

Mount Ellinor is a popular summit hike with views of Hood Canal and Lake Cushman.

Vance Creek Railriders

Vance Creek Railriders recently opened for their season with thee daily pedal trips on Simpson's decommissioned timber rail.

stay in the treetops

Thinking of attending Timber Days? Bring the whole family! We are all going gaga for this amazing new property that just got added to our lodging list (explorehoodcanal.com/lodging/union). This local landmark is listed for the first time as a short term rental that will fit the whole extended family  – run, don't walk to make your reservation!  The iconic Skyhouse on Alderbrook Creek has a 70 foot tower with Skyroom views of the Hood Canal and Olympic Mountains. Wrap-around decks that let you walk amongst the treetops are just one of the features that sets this one-of-a-kind home in a class of its own. The home sleeps 11, with three bedrooms and 3.5 baths. Kid-friendly, it’s perfect for the whole family. Fully stocked kitchen, WiFi, outdoor dining and gathering spaces, wood burning stove, TVs with streaming, and plenty of games/puzzles/books for guest use. Visit airbnb.com/h/alderbrookskyhouse to reserve your stay.

Have Summit To Talk About

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.

Ride The Rails

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.

Catch Up on Current affairs

Whether you seek tide-ripped saltwater passages, challenging whitewater, or lakes big and small - Hood Canal is paddler’s paradise. Try riding the tides on Hammersley Inlet to Hope Island State Park and return with the flow of the incoming tide. Below Lake Cushman, the lesser known wake-free Lake Kokanee is a great place to practice paddling with a waterfall destination. There are plenty of rental options - or bring your own!

Make Memories at the drive-In

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.

Skyline Drive-In

Timber Days includes a showing of Kirk Douglas' forestry classic "The Big Trees". ©Cooper Studios.

Skyline Drive-In

Timber Days feature will include a historical montage of the 77 years of festivals in Mason County. ©Cooper Studios.


Explore Hood Canal

explore Hood canal

For more information on planning the perfect family adventure in Mason County and South Puget Sound, visit www.explorehoodcanal.com or call our concierge toll free at 866-922-7469 to have an inspiration kit mailed to you with all the happenings and things to do!

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