Even with the 90% chance of rain and a high of 46 degrees, turn out for this year’s Oregon Logging Conference was not just good, it was great. According to Rikki Wellman, OLC’s manager and the conference’s vendors, it was in fact the best they’ve had since 2008. What can be attributed for such a wonderful increase in visitors? Well, as much as we would love to say it was from our Eugene Daily News article on Friday, our economy turning around must take most, if not all, of the credit.
Not only did the public opening on Saturday receive more foot traffic than in years past, the conference itself was also signed up for and attended by many more participants this year, which in turn helped more than just the logging industry, as it also helped local hotels, restaurants and food vendors at the conference itself. A truly great way for OLC to celebrate their 75th Anniversary.
Although most of us in Oregon are quite used to venturing out in the rain, this rain was particularly cold. Amazingly however, not only did this not keep people from attending, it also didn’t drive them to leave early as all of the vendors we spoke to said that they were happy to see so many still there after 11:30 a.m., as they said that last year they were packing up to leave by that time.
It went so well in fact, said vendor Doug Powell from Full Circle Finance, that out of the 1,000 heavy equipment loan applications he had brought with him, very few were left by 11:30. He indicated how many were left by motioning his hand over 20 or so of the last applications, neatly displayed in small rows on his booth’s counter. Powell was also in agreement with what we’d heard throughout the morning from other vendors, which was that this year’s OLC was the best it’s been in 5 years.
There were not only booth’s for those that would be looking for equipment, loans or any other forestry necessity, there were also some there that would be liked by anyone. One such one was Great Jesspectations. This booth consisted of the works of local artist Colleen Jess, which included some beautiful wood burning art done on various types of woods in different shapes and sizes, and just as great oil paintings and ink drawings. Colleen said that was also very pleased with Saturday’s traffic.
Inside one of the Lane County Fairgrounds buildings, was where you would find the bulk of the crowd whenever the sky darkened again, as the rain came and went throughout the morning and into the afternoon. There was much to keep them entertained, whether they were there to find a new Twin Disc Clutch from Mill Log, tires from Les Schwab or to see the really cool antique logging display by Hull Family Trucks.
See this tire from Les Schwab? It’s huge! This tire goes on logging trucks, and is something they sell a lot of said the salesman on site. Guess how much this at least 6’ tall tire cost? 9 to 11, that is what he said and I said “hundred?” and he says “oh no, thousand, 9 to 11 thousand dollars each.” With our car tire popping the other day with a teenager behind the wheel and a curb that apparently popped up out of nowhere, we thought $103 was bad!
The antique logging equipment display by Hull Family Trucks, that I mentioned earlier, deserves more than just a quick mention, although it was a relatively small display, it spoke volumes in what they had to show. Just looking at some of the past motorized saws, the earliest chain saws, gets you wondering how on earth the loggers were able to hold, let alone use these giant moving cutters.
They also had laid out some of the other common tools of the times, all of which look enough alike modern day logging equipment that you can figure out what it was probably used for. Like so many other old industries, logging has definitely changed. The technology used now would amaze the old timers that once had to hang on for dear life as there more dangerous equipment would tear into a tree trunk the size of a small car.
Also on display by this family was a 1926 Ford Model TT. Although it was designed based on the original Model T, the Model TT had been used as one of the first logging trucks due to its having an accessory gearbox such as the Ruxtell or Jumbo gearboxes, something the Model T’s didn’t have and something that gave the logger driver the advantage of being able to shift between low and high so they could climb the hills of Oregon more easily.
Just what else did you miss if you if you weren’t able to make the 2013 Oregon Logging Conference? Something that is definitely worth seeing, and never gets old, was the woodcarvings. There were a few booths there this year, each full of multiple and wonderful wood carvings. Most of them had shapes you would find from our forests, bears, eagles, fish among the most common, but there was one that stood out that would attract the eye of any sci-fi, techie or movie lover, such as myself; it was a wood carving of the alien from the 1987 movie, Predator.
Watching a log loader build his tower of logs was also interesting, with most of the spectators disappointed instead of excited every time the log loader operator managed to place another giant log on top of his stack. Hoping for it to fall as it teetered back and forth as he gingerly placed the log atop the last one, the crowd would let out disappointing gasp of “ooh’s” along with giggles as they realized there were hoping for the operator to fail at his mission.
One small boy among those of us watching, holding our breath each time the logs got closer to tumbling, asked his father if the man in the big machine was playing Jenga, to which we all had to agree it did seem much like the tricky stacking game played at home. As we turned to leave, guess what happened? Yes, we heard some good hearted laughter and the sound of crashing stumps and turned to see that the tower-o-logs had finally fallen. It didn’t deter the operator as he just began his stack once more (see more images here).
Due to the rain, we missed seeing most of the larger machines in action. It was neat though to see them up close and be able to speak with some of the manufacturers and sales teams as they were very helpful in explaining just what each machine would do.
According to every one of the outside businesses that we spoke with, the gloomy weather did not affect visitors, as they had many leads for future sales, and some even sold some of their large machinery, including Coburg company,Triad, which sold at least 2 of their machines during this event and hope to have other sales stemming from it in the near future. Peterson Pacific, one of the very few heavy equipment manufacturers left in our area, also said that they were very pleased with the day’s and week’s events.
They, as well as others, commented on how nice it was to be able to interact more with the community, as well as those that traveled to see them. Modern Machinery and Komatsu representatives pointed out how nice it was for others to come to them for once instead of them having to travel far distances to try to make a sale or show their equipment. Spread across several counties, reaching all the way to the California border, they said they were happy to spend a weekend at home for once, and still be able to reach their customer base.
It was, to me, surprising just how many families attended the OLC’s family day, most easily seen due to the attached balloons on small wrists, strollers and baby seats. Most of the activities for the families with small children were held inside the warm and dry Wheeler Pavillion. There they had short lines of little ones, ranging in age from around 3-12, waiting to get their faces painted, get some free cotton candy, popcorn, a fun balloon shaped by a un-scary looking clown, a hug and a picture from Smokey the Bear or to go with their parents to get a free Douglas Fir tree sapling.
There were also many tables around for the kiddies to sit at and build things or create some of their own unique artwork using rubber stamps and other fun items. They had a bird house building workshop as well. Something not just for kids, including the cotton candy, was the booth occupied by Wildlife Images. With three adorable, yet dangerous (at least to mice and fish) birds, the booth attracted both old and young. Among their wildlife was a scary looking tarantula, or so it appeared to be as I didn’t go close enough to read the label.
Those that didn’t terrify me included a barn owl named Petri, more about him in a minute, a red tailed hawk and a screech owl. Interesting stories for each of them, especially the barn owl and hawk, as we were told by the person manning the booth at the time. The red tailed hawk, actually had a much longer name and was said that his coloring is one in a million so he looked a lot more pale than most, was a transplant from Medford, Oregon. You can read more about their personal story, the OLC and see more images, here (http://thehightechsociety.
As you see, and read, there was a lot to see and do at the Oregon Logging Conference this year. It was wonderful for local businesses and not so local businesses. Everyone we talked to was positive and all smiles about the day and weeks events, including the OLC manager Rikki Wellman who was kind enough to take my call at 8pm last night to answer a few questions. Which with a tired, yet kind voice, she told me that she was very happy with how the conference went this year, and although tired she was a good kind of tired and looking forward to their 2014 conference, something I told her I would love to again be a part of.
So, did you make it to the Oregon Logging Conference this year? If so, what did you like most? And, if you couldn’t make it, do you think after hearing about how much fun it was that you may make it next year? It’s nice to hear from our readers so please let us know what your opinions are.