Every year, the second weekend of August, the town of Morton, Washington opens it’s doors and welcomes all to come and have a good time. The Logger’s Jubilee has become a celebration for people of all ages. From the Main Street Parade to the Lawnmower Races, the “Granddaddy of all Logging Shows”, to the Jubilee Queen Coronation, Morton’s Loggers’ Jubilee promises a good time for everyone.
In 2010, the Jubilee Committee commissioned artist DAVID HECK to paint a Memorial mural to honor those that have been a part of Jubilee….managers, committee members, chairman, and workers. We will always keep these friends and co-volunteers in our hearts.
The idea of a logging show grew out of friendly competition between men who made their livelihood in the sometimes hazardous, always strenuous business of logging and lumbering. Now added to the friendly competition is a need to show the younger generation how it was done “in the good old days.” Preserving heritage becomes increasingly more important as progress brings new and better ways never dreamed of in the days of the springboard and axe.
Some say it was 1937 and some say 1938 when the first Loggers’ Jubilee was held. It is a question of whose memory is best, as there doesn’t seem to be a permanent record of those early shows. Some say the late F.E. Coleman was the main force behind the first Jubilee. Others say Coleman started it in cooperation with Ed Baker, Peterman Timber Company superintendent, and Jack Sutherland, superintendent of Kosmos Timber, now known as the Morton Division of Champion International.
Still others credit J. Longmire with instigating the first logging show in a lot near his auto and truck repair shop. Reg Lester was Arena Director. Log bucking was held on a vacant lot on Main Street, and tree climbing was later added on a tree near the Glen Fisher place.
A colorful “hillbilly” band advertised Jubilee by touring nearby towns, including Tacoma, Chehalis and Centralia. A mock “hillbilly” wedding on Main Street was a feature of the early shows, with plywood axes sold as souvenirs.
As Jubilee grew, it was arranged to hold the show on the present grade school playground. World War II came in 1941, and as efforts turned in other directions Jubilee was not held for the duration of the war.
In early October 1946, the celebration was revived as “Timber Wolves Daze,” with Ross Surnworth managing it. The next year it was renamed Loggers’ Jubilee and Nels “Bill” Hanson was hired as manager.
Bleachers were built and portable bleachers were brought in the following year to handle the crowds. High climbing was done on trees near the Tilton River, and cable splicing and tie loading were added to the program. For the first time, the roar of power saws was heard in the show.
More bleachers were added in 1950, and climbing trees were raised on the ground. A tug-of-war between the loggers and the mill men was especially hilarious. It was that year Kosmos Timber displayed a truck loaded with 34,170 board feet of logs.
With Morton known as “the tie producing capital of the world” it was fitting that the tie loading competition garnered much interest. Competition between Archie Cheney of Kosmos and Dean Blaksma of Oregon was also a highlight of the shows.
Morton’s Chamber of Commerce accumulated Jubilee funds each year and purchased two blocks in the Collar-Wood addition to give Jubilee a home and provide Morton youth with a lighted athletic field.
Ernie Loden of Mineral began clearing the site in the spring of 1952 with a Cat owned by St. Regis Company. Volunteers lugged roots and limbs, burned slash and labored to prepare for the fall’s Jubilee. PUD employees and boys from the State Fire Camp were responsible for much of the work involved with putting lights up. The field was graded, seeded and used for football that fall. Governor Arthur B. Langlie attended that Jubilee and complimented the community on its endeavors.
Jubilee managers include Bill Hanson (1946- 1957), Neil Wright (I 957-59), L. “Howdie” Davison (1960), Gary Coleman (1963-67), Jim Mitchell (1968-69), Don Rowe (1 970-7 1), Gary Coleman (1972-75), “Sonny” Mettler, with brothers “Punk” and Rob (1976), Terry Simonis, (1977-79), “Sonny” Mettler (1980-present).
Improvements over the years include permanent concrete bleachers constructed by Grose Construction Co. of Morton, new concession stands, a portable all-purpose building, a Queen’s contest to advertise Jubilee (the first queen was Kathy Boren in 1955), and the first Jubilee float built was built under the direction of Chamber President Jerry Mullins and Don Gayman. Our latest, and most prize winning float was built by our dedicated Morton Lion’s Club members.
Jubilee Park is another addition brought about by the Loggers’ Jubilee. Through the efforts of the Chamber of Commerce, the park has gradually been improved and now has a Little League ball field and playground equipment. An old steam donkey, believed to have been in use in the Morton Mineral area around 1918, was donated by Otto and Bill Studhalter for display in the park. The steam donkey has since been moved to Gus Backstrom Park.In 2016, Jubilee donated $20,000 to the City for playground equipment in the Park.
For nearly 30 years Eugene “Bing” Bingaman commanded the arena events. In 1989 his nephew Charlie Russell accepted the challenge and responsibility. In 2004 the torch was handed over to Brian Dalton.
The voice from the announcer’s mike was Gil Coleman in the early years. Gary Coleman, Reg Lester, Jr., and Mike Fairhart all Morton natives, have handled the job.
In 2008 Jubilee lost Reg Lester Jr. after serving the Jubilee for 42 years. In 2009, Rick Stockdale another Morton native, joined Mike Fairhart in announcing the Jubilee.
Any history of Jubilee must be sketchy because of space, but would not be complete without mention of the fine cooperation offered by the logging operators of the surrounding area. They have made donations of money for contestant prizes and have supplied logs and materials needed for the shows. The countless hours of volunteer work by community-minded people in staging such a show can never be valued in dollars and cents and it would have been impossible to list all those whose efforts have nourished the infant fledgling into a full grown show over the years.
Each year the Jubilee, started so many years ago, grows bigger and better. It has become known as “the Granddaddy of Logging Shows”. On Thursday night, the Queen’s Coronation begins the now four-day weekend, while Friday night hosts the annual “National Championship Lawnmower Races”. Saturday begins with a 10K run as well as bed races, our grand parade, and the first of our two day logging show hosting some of the nations top professional logging competitors, and ends a street dances on Main Street for all ages.
One of the most interesting features of Jubilee weekend is the Saturday parade, sporting junior events, floats, marching units, clowns and displays of logging equipment. It has been tabbed one of the best logging show parades in the country.
Thanks to the Budweiser Brewery and Peterson Distributing of Chehalis, Loggers’ Jubilee had the rare privilege of hosting the Budweiser Clydesdales twice in four years. In 1989 they were here for Jubilee’s Washington Centennial celebration. In 1992, they marched in our parade and logging arena as a part of Loggers’ Jubilee’s 50-year anniversary. We would always welcome the grand horses and hope to have them back again some day.
History is never ending and in 2020 our history was interrupted. The Jubilee had to be cancelled due to the spread of Covid-19.
As we start 2021 we are hopeful that our community will be able to rebuild our traditions and once again have our Jubilee celebration.
Without the help of our community, Show Sponsors – KING Distributing of Chehalis and Port Blakely, our Event Sponsors, local businesses, and the many volunteers, the Jubilee would not be the success it is. Proceeds from the Logger’s Jubilee are distributed throughout East Lewis County. Besides dedicating a majority of funds back to the Morton Chamber of Commerce, the Jubilee supports scholarships, sport teams and other organizations from Centralia to White Pass.
Please browse around on our website, we hope you will visit Morton this year!!
Reg Lester Sr.
Gene “Bing” Bingaman
Jim Van Cleve Sr.
Reg Lester Jr.
Frank Mettler Jr.
L. “Howdie” Davison
Jim Benton Sr.
Bill “Nels” Hanson
Frank “Perk” Perkins