DEMING LOGGING SHOW
The first thing I saw at the Deming Logging Show grounds was an old wooden stump with dozens of chainsaws sticking out of it.
The blades of the saws, plunged into the wood, were angled in such a way as to best show off their own uniquely painted engines. Some looked no more than a few years old, while others had been weathered from decades of display, use or most likely both.
The stump sits just outside the workshop of Sherm Ousdale, one of the first presidents of the logging show. Ousdale’s clear, light blue eyes met mine as he went for a handshake with a hand well worn with toil in the logging industry.
As we walked, Ousdale gestured to various pieces of logging nostalgia displayed all around the grounds. Most of the space was surrounded by row after row of wooden bleachers. Two towering fir poles stood in the center of the arena while large piles of sawdust and half-hewn logs doted the ground surrounding the poles.
Ousdale said the bleachers were one of the first ways the organizers of the logging show thought to make money from advertising. These funds, in addition to hours and hours of volunteer work, have helped the show grow from humble beginnings to one of the best-known logging shows in the country with attendance figures topping 5,000 people.
Now in its 50th year, the idea for the Deming Logging Show sprang from the state department of labor and industries’ slow response to compensate loggers injured in the woods of Whatcom County.
Enter Finley Hayes, a logger with a passion for the profession and an undying loyalty to his fellow workers. Hayes gathered up some loggers, Ousdale included, and organized the first Deming Logging Show in 1963. The show attracted 800 spectators and featured eight competitive logging events.
Eight hundred spectators meant $800 went into a fund set up to help injured loggers.
The logging show began to grow in earnest a few years after its inception when show president Joe Zender came up with the idea to advertise. Through his burgeoning logging magazine, Zender garnered advertising dollars from eight large logging companies in Whatcom and Skagit counties and convinced them to advertise on the show’s growing assortment of bleachers.
The show still makes most of its $50,000-per-year operating costs selling sections of bleachers to advertisers for $750. The companies are then allowed to advertise at the top of each of the bleacher sections.
“Hayes said if we can keep it going for just four years, I think we can make it,” Ousdale said. “And here we are at 50 years.”
Since the first show, attendance has grown to 5,400 people for just one day of the two-day event; a 575 percent increase.
The logging show has also grown from eight to 25 events. Competitors get points for every event won, which are added up at the end of the show. The coveted title of “All Around Logger” is bestowed upon the logger with the most points at the end of the show.
Ousdale is a fan of “hot saw” bucking – cutting off the end of a large log in the fastest time possible. Any chainsaw that can be carried in by two competitors is allowed. Competitors will lug in massive machines that regularly have thousands of dollars poured into them. These roaring, custom-built chainsaws will often be equipped with motorcycle engines and blades as long as coffee tables.
But all the glory and heartbreak that comes with these competitions aside, the entire show is all about helping injured loggers. Since 1963, about 1,200 loggers have received a modest stipend as a result.
The 2012 Deming Log Show is June 9 and 10 at the Deming Logging Show Grounds, 3295 Cedarville Road, Deming. Info: 360/592-3051 or deminglogshow.com