By JASON RAICHE
For The Daily News
ESCANABA - The 68th Annual Great Lakes Timber Professionals Association's Lake States Logging Congress & Equipment Expo kicks off Friday in Escanaba.
The event, held at the U.P. State Fairgrounds and Ruth Butler Building, brings vendors and exhibitors showcasing their best in log splitters, portable sawmills, compact tractors and logging equipment, implements, chainsaw carving, wood and pellet stove dealers and more.
The biggest change to the event this year is it now will take place over a two-day period and includes extended hours Saturday afternoon, according to GLTPA event coordinator Aaron Nieman.
"Typically we did a three-day event, but this year we're doing an all-day Friday and an all-day Saturday," he said.
The event will run from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Eastern time) Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. The cost for the event is $10 and is good for both days of the event.
The main reason for the change is feedback from the vendors and exhibitors who noted a Friday and Saturday event is better for their schedules, and also is more economical for visitors and travelers coming to the area for the event.
According to Nieman, Logging Congress typically sees about 200 vendors utilizing 350 booths and covers approximately 875,000 square feet.
"Usually we average about 3,000 or 4,000 attendees per day," he said. "So 6,000 to 8,000 for the two-day event."
The first Logging Congress took play in Houghton on Nov. 1 and 2, 1945, but in 1948, the event began changing locations to encourage greater exposure and participation. The event typically alternates between Wisconsin and Michigan, and was last held in Escanaba in 2011.
"There's a huge history of logging in the Upper Peninsula," said Nieman. "It's a major source of revenue and income for people in that area."
This year, the GLTPA received proposals to host the event from Marquette, Ironwood, Sault Ste. Marie, and St. Ignace, in addition to Escanaba, but Nieman said the U.P. State Fairgrounds and Ruth Butler Building had the best proposal for putting the entire event together - a large enough indoor and outdoor facility, plenty of parking space and lodging opportunities, to name a few factors that came into play.
Today, before Logging Congress officially begins, the GLTPA will host a President's Kick Off social event in the Miracle of Life Pavilion at the fairgrounds for $15 per person. Nieman said approximately 500 people attend the President's Kick Off, and many featured Delta Chamber of Commerce restaurants will provide food for the event, which runs from 6 to 9 p.m.
In addition to the vendors and exhibits on display, the Original Prentice Loader Championship will take place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. There will also be a Great Lakes Forwarder Challenge from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and National Forwarder Operator Challenge Semi-Finals from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. The National Forwarder Operator Challenge Finals take place at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
Also on Friday at 11 a.m. there will be a ladies bowling pin throw contest, judging on an Industry Loads Competition at noon, and a Tug-O-War contest between Michigan and Wisconsin at 4 p.m.
Truck rides will be available at the back registration area Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon, and Smokey Bear will be visiting from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
"It's an historic event," said Nieman. "We love coming to Escanaba and we encourage the local community to come out and support it."
For more information on the Logging Congress, visit the GLTPA website at www.timberpa.com.
SCHEDULE OF EVENTS (All times Eastern):
Today, Sept. 5
6-9 p.m. President's Kickoff Event
Friday, Sept. 6
8 a.m. 5 p.m. Logging Congress registration and exhibits open
8 a.m. 5 p.m. The Original Prentice Loader Championship
8 a.m. 5 p.m. Great Lakes Forwarder Challenge GLTPA/ Komatsu Forest/ Roland Machinery
11 a.m. - Ladies Bowling Pin Throw
Noon Judging on Industry Loads Competition
4 p.m. Tug-O-War: Michigan vs. Wisconsin
5 p.m. Logging Congress Closes
Saturday, Sept. 7
8 a.m. 4 p.m. Logging Congress Registration and Exhibits Open
8 a.m. 4 p.m. The Original Prentice Loader Championship
8 a.m. Noon National Forwarder Operator Challenge Semi-Finals GLTPA/ Komatsu Forest/ Roland Machinery
9 a.m. Noon Truck Rides (Available at Back Registration area)
9 a.m. 1 p.m. Meet Smokey Bear
12:30 p.m. National Forwarder Operator Challenge Finals GLTPA/ Komatsu Forest/ Roland Machinery
4 p.m. Logging Congress Closes