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Posts Tagged ‘Keep Washington Green’

A parade, a pageant, and Paul Bunyan. These may not be the first three things that come to mind when you think about fire prevention, but residents of Mason County, Washington, back in 1945 had their own unique ideas. To help combat the destructive wildfires in the region — while also promoting the importance of forests to the local economy — Mason County hosted a forest festival in the spring of 1945. The festival featured a parade through downtown Shelton, a beauty pageant, a Paul Bunyan impersonator, and various other events and activities. The idea proved even more successful than imagined. This weekend Shelton hosts the 69th annual Mason County Forest Festival, which still prominently features a parade, pageant, and Paul Bunyan, just like back in 1945.

Paul Bunyan leads parade (FHS773)

Wayne Allen as Paul Bunyan leads the parade through Shelton, 1954.

The history of Shelton is closely tied with the history of logging operations in the area. In 1853, Michael T. Simmons built the first sawmill in Mason County on Mill Creek just south of present-day Shelton. Around this same time, David Shelton (the town’s namesake) staked a settlement claim on a nearby inlet off Puget Sound. As the town grew, its connections to the forest industry only strengthened. Sol G. Simpson came to the area and founded the Simpson Logging Company in the 1890s. The Simpson Company would eventually grow and expand throughout the country, but Shelton served as an important center of operations for much of the following century. The area was also notable for being the home of the Shelton Cooperative Sustained-Yield Unit, which became active in 1946 and ended in 2002.

The first Mason County Forest Festival in 1945 honored the area’s logging history by showcasing the value of timber to the community, while demonstrating the importance of safeguarding the forests against destructive fires. Fire prevention was a prominent theme, as the Mason County Forest Festival Association was at this time operated as an auxiliary of the local chapter of the Keep Washington Green Committee.

Following that first festival – in which Lois Gibler was crowned Festival Queen and Gus Anderson played the part of Paul Bunyan – the event only grew. People from the northwestern Washington region flocked to Shelton to see, in the words of an ad for the 12th annual Forest Festival, “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. For three memorable days, the communities participate in a program which you can’t afford to miss.” The idea of a forest festival quickly spread across the country along with the Keep Green program. “You have in Shelton, in my opinion, the best all-around forest festival in the United States,” read a quote from a mid-1950s article on the event. “It has been the inspiration of many forest communities throughout the U.S.”

Carving Shelton Log Sign 1953

Artist Clarence Beauchamp (right) carving Douglas fir log sign, 1953.

The ninth annual Forest Festival in 1953 was one for the ages. The monumental event celebrated the 100th anniversary of logging operations in Mason County, and a large sign carved into a piece of Douglas fir was permanently dedicated (the log sign still welcomes visitors to Shelton today). On the festival’s final day 30,000 people — about six times the regular population of the town — crowded into Shelton to watch the Paul Bunyan Parade through downtown.

The 1953 event was an early high point for the festival, but there have been many other great moments throughout the years. Continue below to see featured images from the FHS Archives documenting the long history of the Mason County Forest Festival. (more…)

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On this date in 1940, Washington Governor Clarence D. Martin issued an influential proclamation appealing for the positive action by all of Washington’s citizens in the prevention of wildfires.  This public proclamation would directly lead to the creation of the Keep Washington Green Association, an organization whose model was eventually copied by states throughout the country.

KWGlogo2_thMartin’s address came at a crucial time in the history of Washington and Oregon’s forests.  An increase in destructive forest fires in the Pacific Northwest during the early 20th century had culminated in the Tillamook Burns of the 1930s, a series of fires which destroyed massive amounts of the region’s timber.  These catastrophic fires led to great concern among foresters and forest industry leaders, including former U.S. Forest Service chief William B. Greeley, who at the time served as head of the West Coast Lumbermen’s Association.  Greeley publicly called for improved logging practices and more organized fire suppression.  His continued championing of these issues eventually led directly to Washington Governor Martin’s public proclamation of May 31, 1940.

KWGlogo3_thAlong with his address urging the public to embrace forest fire prevention, Governor Martin also called for a public meeting in Olympia five days later to further address the issues at hand.  At this meeting an organization was formed to create publicity campaigns promoting forest fire prevention.  Roderick Olzendam, public relations director for Weyerhaeuser Timber Company and originator of such slogans as “Timber is a Crop” and “Tree Farm,” proposed the new organization be named Keep Washington Green.  As the new organization began implementing forest fire prevention advertising campaigns and radio programs in Washington, the idea quickly began to spread.  In May 1941 Oregon Governor Charles Sprague called together 250 state leaders in Portland to replicate the program, forming a Keep Oregon Green Association.

Keep Oregon Green sticker

An early Keep Oregon Green promotional item.

Both state organizations undertook increasingly larger projects and campaigns to spread the word about forest fire prevention to the public.  Grassroots community-focused plans were established, as well as the production of dramatic radio presentations, newspaper features, and various promotional items.

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