You missed it. It was the second full weekend in June. But you should go next year. You really should. This was my 6th year. If you remember enjoying the county fair but hate how noisy, gross, expensive, alternately commercial and broke-down, and boring it has become, you might like the Log Show. It’s got all the small town pageantry and field day feels you remember. Damn good food, reasonable fees, clean and plentiful bathrooms, buttloads of unique entertainment, gorgeous setting.
Look at these pictures and see how cool it is.
Dominating the grounds outside the arena is this Skagit yarder. In the winter it is strung with lights to look like a 100-foot tall Christmas tree.
There are dozens of cool trucks competing for various prizes. The grille on this one caught my eye. My brother’s truck wasn’t there when I was or I would have taken 3000 pictures of it, instead.
Horse and carriage rides around the grounds (which also house several baseball diamonds).
Some trucks arrive loaded to compete for Best Load of Logs. This is the one I was pulling for. If I had had the guts to get on the back bumper that middle log would have come up to at least my shoulder.
Over in the antique machines area this steam tractor was chugging away manically beside some drag saws and hit-and-miss stump pullers. Attached to the long drive belt was a shake cutter. This thing was kind of terrifying, as it was essentially a half-size locomotive, lurching and shuddering. The whistle was so human and desperate-sounding that it gave me goosebumps. The stack blew smoke rings.
The arena itself, one of few permanent log show arenas worldwide and one of (if not the) biggest is about the size of a AAA high school football stadium.
I look forward to the barbecue all year. As always, I got the salmon. As always, it was perfect. Also shown: baked potato, garlic bread, baked beans, coleslaw, extra sauce. Not shown: 100 napkins, fruit punch.
Matt opted for the Combo 2: chicken and roast beef. (And potato salad because he is morally opposed to coleslaw and all other cabbage products.) They gave him half a whole chicken because they thought he “looked like he could handle it.”
This was the biggest friggin’ loader I’ve ever seen outside a mill yard. Look at the guy standing by the fence. He’s just ten feet from the tracks and he looks like a toddler.
Opening ceremonies: all the contestants and the past presidents (in green shirts) line up for photos, announcements, and the National Anthem.
Speed climbers! One of my favorite events and one that goes on throughout the day. Children and amateurs compete as well as world record holders.
For scale, here’s the same shot, zoomed out. The spar poles are 90 feet tall. These amateur climbers will go only to the green line at 70 feet. But they will do so in seconds.
SPOILER ALERT: Every year a professional log show clown climbs one of the spar poles, hooks up to a safety line, and proceeds to scare the ever-loving shit out of children and newcomers by juggling, dancing, and doing handstands. At the end of the act both he and his stuffed owl, Spot, are “shot” by a jealous husband. This clown is the son of the clown who did the show (and others) for 35 years.
The grounds are littered with cool stuff like this stump chock full’o old chainsaws. There’s a working blacksmith shop, retired equipment from the days of oxen and old growth, and shrines to fallen men.
The show is a benefit, so it gets serious at times, but mostly a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor prevails. There are lots of signs like these strewn about.
The whole name of the game is The Deming Logging Show For the Benefit of Busted Up Loggers. When my oldest brother’s leg was smashed in the woods when he was still a faller (the crew member who actually cuts down the trees) Log Show money helped pay the bills to get him, literally, back on his feet. Since 1963 the show has raised money through sales of admission tickets, food, souvenirs, and by auctioning donated items (like firewood, sand, and gravel) to help loggers who get hurt on the job.
In the events, actual loggers young and old, both solo and as teams, do the kind of work they do every day (and, in some cases, like single and double bucking and the standing log chop, work their grandfathers did) but at top speed. There’s axe throwing, log rolling (in a purpose-built pond right in the arena), relays, speed cutting competitions, trailer backing, truck loading, you name it. Some events are a little more loosely based on the practice of logging, such as ma and pa bucking, in which husband and wife or father and daughter duos race to cut rounds with old fashioned cross-cut saws (also known as misery whips).
And then there’s the infamous hot saws. Hot saws are the whole reason some people come to the show. According to the program, the hot saw competition “has the least number of rules of any event in the Log Show.” The objective is to cut a round as fast as possible. You can use whatever kind of equipment you like as long as no more than two people are required to operate it. The usual suspects range in size from my brother’s triple snowmobile motor through Harley-Davidson engines up to small and big block Ford and Chevys and one Land Rover. The noise is indescribable. The speed is incredible. The ungodly shriek of that little snowmobile motor makes children cry (which, of course, makes me grin).
The final event is an epic tug of war: children versus loggers, with a maximum combined weight of 1500 pounds of people and gear per side. As far as I know the loggers have never won, but I often take this opportunity to scamper out to Karl and zip away into the cooling, golden evening, windows down, warm breeze in our sunburned faces, cruising down back roads, bursting with good food, covered in sawdust, waving at the cows in the fields.