Mid-South Marks 25 Years: Setting Records Despite Crunch

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Loggers and associated manufacturers turned out in surprisingly good numbers June 6-7 for a milestone Mid-South Forestry Equipment Show.

An estimated 6,000 people, hailing from as far away as eastern Canada, passed through the gate. It was the 25th anniversary of the growing event. Founded in 1983, the show is the longest running live logging venue in the nation. It began on Mississippi State University’s (MSU) John W. Starr Memorial Forest and continues on the tract, located a few miles south of Starkville, Miss.

The 2008 show set records for the dollar value of equipment, products and supplies displayed by vendors; for the number of loggers and foresters who attended continuing education classes and the number of credit hours they earned; and for the amount of money raised for Log A Load for Kids.

“Despite the industry’s problems and a slow economy, attendees and exhibitors stepped up,” said Show Manager Charles Burkhardt. “We were very pleased with the participation, and I think exhibitors and attendees were satisfied with their Mid-South Show experience this year.”

Activities kicked off on Thursday with an on-site bioenergy workshop: “Woody Biomass, Fueling the Future.” A panel of eight speakers addressed various biomass issues and concepts. Among them was Bryce Stokes, the top U.S. Forest Service biomass authority. Auburn University’s Mobile Bioenergy Unit was on display for the workshop and Friday portion of the show. The unit is a working model of the 10 stages of gasification, a thermochemical process where heat and oxygen break down biomass (wood chips) into a synthesis gas. A total of 52 attended the session. On Friday crowds surrounded a timber frame building (the framing was made of sweet gum by MSU faculty and students) where Continuing Education for loggers and foresters took place. CE sessions always classes attract keen interest at the show, but this year interest was exceptional. Almost 2,000 loggers and foresters claimed a combined 5,971 credits, a show record, according to Burkhardt. A workshop for landowners attracted more than 100.

Both Friday and Saturday were quite hot but a slight breeze helped. Families arrived by the dozens to visit with friends, see what manufacturers had to offer, pick up classes and take advantage of special activities for children.

Even though most loggers attending were not looking to buy new equipment, a few were seriously entertaining the thought of replacing aging machinery. They had eyes for skidders, feller-bunchers, loaders, trailers, pressure washers and ATVs. Although most are having a tough go of it with high operating costs and limited markets, the prevailing attitude was not sour. Some exhibitors said they were pleasantly surprised that the attitude was as pleasant as it appeared to be.

In fact, a few sales were generated during the show and finalized days later. Stribling Equipment reportedly moved a couple of Deere harvesting machines while Caterpillar dealers are said to have sold a cutter and two skidders. First-time exhibitor G&S Equipment of Tuscaloosa and Prattville, Ala., sold an ASV mulcher. “Our participation in the show was a gamble but it paid off,” said Mike Guy, G&S President.

The live demo site was staged in a stand of 25-year-old loblolly pine, prescription-burned last year in preparation for the show. More than 70 exhibitors demonstrated or displayed their products and services. Of the16 live sites 10 featured harvesting, grinding or chipping machines. For the first time the show offered “live no harvest” sites which were rented by tire companies, grinder-chipper manufacturers and makers of components.

According to Burkhardt, estimated value of all equipment and other goods and supplies on-site was $33 million. This topped the 2006 show record by $8 million.

Some exhibitor highlights:

  • Komatsu Forest/Valmet showed the only cut-to-length machines at the show and complimented these with three feller-bunchers, including the only tri-wheel unit still in production.
  • Chippers and grinders were well represented. Bandit demonstrated several chipper-grinder models, including two that feature the ability to chip or grind with a simple swap of teeth or knives. Vortex Truck & Equipment also showed what a Bandit unit could do. Vermeer Mid-South was there in full force. Peterson demoed a chipper and grinder; Dynamic a chipper and B&G Equipment showed a Woodsman model. DuraTech statically displayed its grinder.
  • Caterpillar dealers Puckett, Thompson Tractor and Thompson Machinery combined to show at least a half dozen types of Cat forestry gear. The dealers also hosted the Ben Jones World Famous Catfish lunch to raise money for Log A Load for Kids. It served 600 lbs. of catfish on Saturday, generating $3,478 for the charity.
  • On an adjacent lot, Prentice feller-bunchers used the SH-50 bunching saw to cut-bunch as the Prentice Loader Championship, featuring the Prentice 2384 loader, was conducted inside a log corral. Respective first through five place winners were Jonathan Cutshall, Johnathan Creasy, Lyle Smith, Bradley Smith and Eddie Johnson. The contest generated $470 for Log A Load for Kids. (Bradley Smith donated his $125 winnings to the charity.)
  • Stribling Equipment and John Deere made comfort priority for visitors with umbrella-shaded tables, water cooled fans and plenty of ice cold water. Machines in the spotlight included the 848H skidder, 843J feller-buncher and 437C loader. Reps sold John Deere caps and raffle tickets for John Deere bicycles and scale toy models. Money from the raffle and a catfish-chicken lunch totaled $4,087, which was donated to Log A Load. (Other Log A Load donations came from the Mississippi Loggers Assn. that sold MLA merchandise to generate $2,829.00. MLA also took in another $734 in donations. The weekend’s grand total collections for the charity came to $11,128, a new show record. )
  • Volvo was on hand with a forestry-bred excavator that featured a Waratah processor.
  • Tigercat brought in two knuckleboom loaders, including its more fuel-efficient 234; two track-type feller-bunchers, two skidders, two wheel-type feller-bunchers and a mulcher carrier. Company CEO Ken MacDonald and President Tony Iarocci were both on hand, as were engineers and district reps.
  • Waters International and G&S Equipment joined forces to show products made by Barko, ASV, Lamtrac, Pitts Trailers and Cutting Systems.
  • Primex and GCR Tire Centers were joined by a new tire company, Alliance, which made its first appearance at the show, as did Genesis Industries, which makes an enhanced GPS system for logging machines.
  • B&G Equipment displayed a Fuchs loader designed for satellite or mill wood yards.
  • Chambers DeLimbinator, a local manufacturer, showed its chain flail delimber at work in the woods and at rest on the yard.
  • Curry Supply touted its ultimate service truck; Dolmar showed chain saws and other power equipment; Hancock and Marchman displayed power cleaning systems; a half dozen companies flagged insurance of all types; Innovative and Magnolia brought chip vans and log trailers; Rotobec displayed grapples; Rayco showed mulchers and stump grinders; and Wood-Mizer and Hud-Son Forest Equipment demonstrated portable sawmills.

Stribling Equipment (John Deere) and B&G Equipment (Tigercat) provided machines for the show-sponsored skidder contest, which attracted 73 contestants.  Taking first place and $300 was Wayne Sojourner, Crystal Springs, Miss. Jonathan Cutshall, Iuka, Miss., came in second and pocketed $200. Third place and $100 went to Richard Harvison, Richard Harvison Logging, McLain, Miss.

Mid-South’s children’s coloring contest again drew considerable interest. First, second and third place winners were chosen from four age groups and will be rewarded with respective $50, $25 and $15 gift cards from Wal-Mart. Winners were: 5-6 year group, first, Tomas Christiansen, Amite, La.; second, Matthew Dollar, Mt. Oliver, Miss.; third, Jaiden Warren, Union, Miss.; 7-8 year group, first, Jonathan Cunningham, Millport, Ala.; Kaitlyn Colvin, Saline, La.; Cole Measell, Decatur, Miss; 9-10 year group, first, Brayden Kennedy, Mendenhall, Miss.; second, Tyler Woods, Delight, Ark.; third, Madison McMurray, Bogalusa, La.; 11-12 year group, first, Hunter Cunningham, Millport, Ala.; second, Tyler Cunningham, Millport, Ala., and Megan McCullough, Sand Rock, Ala.

MSU’s College of Forest Resources showed off the newly renovated Dorman Lake cabin, located near the site, where they held an alumni social Friday night. The cabin was also the site of a Loggers Roundtable, attended by 52.

The Mississippi Loggers Assn. held its annual banquet Saturday night under a tent adjacent to the show site. Burkhardt opened the banquet with a little history of the Mid-South Show and thanked all participants. Cecil Johnson, MLA Executive Director, presented several awards, including MLA Logger of the Year, MLA Log A Load District of the Year, and MLA District of the Year.

The Logger of the Year Award went to Robin Jones Logging of Shubuta, Miss. Jones, who also holds half interest in another logging company, is a long time member of MLA and is very dedicated to the association, serving several years on its board. MLA Logger or the Year is voted on by logging members, with the final decision being made by a committee representing the board.

The MLA Log A Load District of the Year award went to the Southwestern District, which raised $30,032.72 for the Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital. District of the Year award went to the Southeastern District.

A special award was given to Louise Fulmer who has dedicated many years of her life to MLA. She began working with MLA in 1991 and retired from the position of Assistant Director in January 2008. She continues to compile information and write articles for The Mississippi Logger, MLA’s magazine.