Forest Festival

Forest Festival & Smokey Bear Celebrate 80 Years with a party & parade!

By Rachel Hansen

From Alaska to Northern California, logging towns are an iconic part of the Pacific Northwest. Mill towns, log sorts, boom towns and even the notorious skid row all have their roots in this historical legacy. With Mason County’s 80th Forest Festival fast approaching, it is a good time to reflect on this distinctive forestry heritage and the Bunyan sized spirit that still lingers in these communities.

Hood Canal hosts celebrations certain to engage every generation. Fondly dubbed “Washington's Wild Side” the area welcomes families and individuals wanting everything from a relaxing getaway and authentic community festivals– to extreme adventure in the wilderness.

Family Fun and timber history

Forest Festival

Thursday May 30th, 2024 marks the official start of Mason County Forest Festival with a full-scale fun center on 1st Street running through Sunday, June 2.  On Friday, May 31st from 6 - 9 PM the community will come together to celebrate the 80th birthday of the reason for the season - Smokey Bear.

With its roots in Forest fire prevention, it’s fitting that the festival dedicates an evening of free family fun to celebrate Smokey’s 80th birthday in coordination with the Festival's 80th anniversary. Smokey’s actual birthday is August 9. However, starting in January, the Forest Service which has managed the image of Smokey Bear since the 1940s will launch a yearlong celebration with events all over the country. Forest Festival’s event in Shelton, running from 6-9 PM in the City Civic Center lot will include pictures with the birthday bear himself, fire safety tips, games, music, giveaways, axe throwing and food and drink — with cake of course!  The first 50 kids receive a gift bag picked with Smokey memorabilia! 

Smokey Bear

Events for the whole family, all weekend long!

Early Saturday, June 1, the streets of Shelton fill with runners as the hospital launches its annual Goldborough Creek Run. Followed by a pancake breakfast at the local forestation, the streets will once again be filled with families setting up to watch the Family and Pet Parade which precedes the 2024 Paul Bunyan Grand Parade. Enjoy over 80 parade entries — including floats and displays, animals, and decorated logging trucks and forestry equipment. After the Parade families head to nearby Loop Field to enjoy a logging competition and vendors. In the evening the celebration moves uptown for live music, dancing and spectacular sunset fireworks show set to music on the local radio station, KMAS 1030 AM/ FM103.3 as the sun sets.

The fun continues Sunday with more vendors, a car show and even a duck race down the Goldsborough Creek through the heart of Shelton. The parades in early years attracted as many as 30,000 people from all over the region to Shelton to see - in the words of an early press report - “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.”

Early Forest Fest Parade

Giant logs adorned the 1946 Mason County Forest Festival Parade, photo ©Mason County Historical Society.

Early Forest Fest Parade

Wayne Allen as Paul Bunyan leads the parade through Shelton, 1954. Photo ©WA Forest History.

Simpson Logging

The 1947 Forest Festival Parade featured clear cut timber, a new product for the area.

Early Mason County residents had their own unique ideas of fire prevention. The first Mason County Forest Festival honored the area’s logging history by showcasing the value of timber, while demonstrating the importance of safeguarding the forests against destructive fires. At the same time, the US Forest Service teamed up with the Ad Council to educate the public about forest fires, and on August 9th, 1944, the first Smokey the Bear ad was run. The tagline “Only you can prevent forest fires” wasn’t developed for a few more years, but Smokey was an instant and lasting success.

The wide streets built to accommodate logging trucks and the active mill at the foot of town are evidence of these strong timber roots. Even the recently built “roundabout” is designed with no curb or decorative planters to allow the trucks of raw logs arriving at the mill and taking fresh cut lumber from the mill clear passage – across the top!

To view the full Mason County Forest Festival Schedule including Sunday’s car show and the Royalty Court Tea in July, check out the 2024 Event Program online or visit

more hood canal happenings...

Mount Ellinor

Mount Ellinor in the Olympic National Forest is a 6.2 mile hike (3344’ elevation) that follows forested slopes to fantastic panoramic views of the Olympics, Hood Canal, Lake Cushman and even Mount Rainier. The south slopes of the Olympic range offer a variety of hikes with different skill levels – all with spectacular scenery. Ablaze with wildflowers in the spring, cool hidden swimming holes in the summer, a chance to see spawning salmon in the fall, and snow capped peaks in the winter, there is never an inopportune time to hike Hood Canal.

Vance Creek Railriders

Pedal the rails along the decommissioned Simpson Logging rail line for a scenic 12-mile workout with Vance Creek Railriders. This gentle, but vigorous unique ride is suitable for all ages. If you get tired there is a motorized railrider to give you a little extra push up the hills. The excursions run daily though the summer. CLICK HERE for more information on rail-riding.

Fjordin Crossin Hood Canal

Playing on a Scandinavian tradition of crossing the equator to "age” their Aquavit spirit with the rocking of the boat, Hoodsport’s Hardware Distillery came up with a unique celebration in 2018.  Today that “Crossin” of Hood Canal has turned into a low tide celebration at the Hoodsport marina — complete with an Aquavit “grotto” under the pier, grilled oysters and Nordic specialities on the beach near the beer and wine garden, a ceremonial “barrel” parade through town and a non-motorized paddle race across Hood Canal to follow the barrel crossing. On June 22, 2024 as the tide comes in the festivities move up into the street with a barrel tasting at Hardware Distillery and live music and more seafood at the Fjord Oyster Bank. CLICK HERE for more information on the Fjordin Crossin event.

Bluegrass From The Forest

Head to Shelton for Bluegrass From the Forest, July 12-14, for an invigorating three-day music festival featuring national Bluegrass artists, jam sessions and workshops for kids and adults. The expanded camping (just $15/night) with its forest backdrop hosts over 20 acres for families to find their own areas to enjoy the music and activities. With two stage areas, a beer and wine garden, workshops and family activities including Chick’s Kids Music Workshop, Midnight Hot Dogs and an all-ages Country Dance, there is plenty for everyone to do. The event will also host local food trucks as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner menu served from the on-site kitchen. Early Bird ticket rates available through June, get tickets HERE.

Skyline Drive-In
Skyline Drive-In

Since 1964, the Skyline Drive-In south of Shelton has been providing family memories along with great flicks. The recent pandemic has solidified the need to keep these heritage sites open with an old school way to enjoy concerts, graduations, as well as movies! Experience outdoor tailgate nostalgia with a double feature under the stars – there is always plenty of “scary” films and family fare. Visit for more information.

Explore Hood Canal

explore Hood canal

For more information on planning the perfect family adventure in Mason County and South Puget Sound, visit or call our concierge toll free at 866-922-7469 to have an inspiration kit mailed to you with all the happenings and things to do!