Downtown Morton echoed with the whine of chainsaws Saturday afternoon, punctuated with the ringing of axes and cheers from an excited crowd. Locals packed the stands to see expert choppers and climbers compete at the 77th Morton Loggers Jubilee.
The event, akin to a rodeo for lumberjacks, is a favorite summer tradition for both East Lewis County residents and competitors on the timber sports circuit.
“I love watching the competition and seeing old friends and just doing things for the community,” said Sonny Mettler, a longtime organizer of the event. “It’s quite a boost for Morton.”
Linda Mettler, his wife, called the group of locals that helps organize the event each year a “Jubilee family.” It’s worth the effort, she said, when she sees people connecting at the festival.
“It is like a homecoming for all of the Morton kids and Morton parents, everybody,” she said. “It is a coming together.”
The Mettlers have been helping manage the Jubilee for 40 years, they said.
Of course, Loggers Jubilee weekend has come to feature many events, including a queen coronation, flea market, lawnmower races, bed races, a fun run and a parade. But the highlight is always the logging show.
“It’s one of the best ones in the country,” said Mel Lentz, who traveled from West Virginia to compete in eight or nine events. “It’s the best one on the West Coast.”
Lentz put on a strong showing in the underhand chop event, in which contestants take an axe to a log while they stand on top of it. Others raced to work large saws through bigger logs, run the length of a raised log with a chainsaw or climb an 80-foot pole to cut off part of the top.
Cody Labahn traveled from Oregon to compete in his 10th Loggers Jubilee. He took his turn at the axe throwing competition, putting several throws near the center of the target.
“It’s hit and miss for me,” he said. “It’s another event to sign up for. If it goes well, it goes well. If it doesn’t, not a big deal.”
Labahn said he was competing in every event but speed climbing, having been part of the Stihl Series professional circuit this year.
“This is definitely one of the biggest shows I go to,” he said. “Most of the shows on the West Coast are just single-day shows and you’re done. Here you get to chop twice, so if you screw up one day you can fix it the next.”
Lentz added that he loves seeing familiar faces every time he comes to the Jubilee, but he’s also been heartened to see new competitors.
“It’s one of my favorite shows,” he said. “It’s always fun to come to Morton. I love the scenery, I love the people here, and they do a really good job of running the show. … There’s a bunch of new faces here I’ve never seen before, so that’s good. It’s good to see the young guys coming into it.”