Log Show remains the “Heart” of Amboy Territorial Days

The annual competition draws hundreds of spectators and competitors to Amboy’s community celebration.

Michael McCormic Jr.
For ClarkCountyToday.com

AMBOY — The Amboy Territorial Days stayed true to its reputation as the yearly gathering place for outdoorsmen, woodsmen, and general country folk this weekend, with the commencement of North County’s beloved community festival.

The Amboy Territorial Days Log Show featured 16 different competition events, from chainsaw races to pole climbing. Photo by Mike Schultz
The Amboy Territorial Days Log Show featured 16 different competition events, from chainsaw races to pole climbing. Photo by Mike Schultz

The weekend-long celebration began on Fri., July 12, and ended on Sun., July 14, with hardly a slow moment from start to finish. Some say that their favorite moment this weekend was the Princess Court Coronation on Friday night, where Ruthie Homola was crowned Territorial Days Queen. Others would say they preferred the parade on Saturday morning, which ran with the theme, “Home of the Free Because of the Brave.” Intended to honor those who have served in our nation’s armed forces, the parade featured Grand Marshals from the American Legion Tum Tum Post #168.

Of course, it is the Log Show that draws the big crowds; advertised as the “heart of the Amboy Territorial Days Celebration,” this community favorite event showcases the logging heritage and lifestyle that many north county families share. The show consists of 16 different competition categories, many of which involve skills that professional loggers use at the jobsite on a daily basis.

The 2019 Bull of the Woods award was presented to Navy Veteran and mechanic Jack Kelly, pictured center with Log Show organizers Kyle McKee (left) and Greg Brown (right). Photo by Mike Schultz
The 2019 Bull of the Woods award was presented to Navy Veteran and mechanic Jack Kelly, pictured center with Log Show organizers Kyle McKee (left) and Greg Brown (right). Photo by Mike Schultz

It does not matter whether a competitor is young or old, thick or thin, male or female; from choker-setting to birling, and chain races to pole-climbing, and even axe throwing, there is a competition event for every logger at heart.

While the standard chainsaws are in no short supply during the log show, one of the most impressive sights to behold in the Waser Arena is the hot saw exhibition. These behemoth logging machines are powered by car engines, and often sport 6 or 8 cylinder motors. One such hot saw, appropriately named “Tree Hugger’s Nightmare,” was designed by Scott McKenzie and operated by a two-man crew consisting of Nick Taklo and Bubba Simplot.

Explaining the specifications of their machine, Taklo says, “This is a 302 Ford car engine that Scott McKenzie here built. He’s always had the want to make a hot saw, and he made one.”

Weighing in at approximately 500 pounds, the Tree Hugger’s Nightmare requires its two-man team to use extreme caution and care, as well as brute strength. While seldom used in the logging industry, the hot saw drew cheers and applause from the crowds as it sliced through log in a matter of seconds.

“They’re big and bad and fun to run every time,” Simplot says of his team’s saw. “Last log show, we cut a .95 [seconds] through a log at the Buckley Log Show.”

Ruthie Homola was crowned Amboy Territorial Days Queen on July 12. Photo by Mike Schultz
Ruthie Homola was crowned Amboy Territorial Days Queen on July 12. Photo by Mike Schultz

Regular spectators to the Log Show might recognize a familiar face walking back and forth between the organizers’ tables and the competition. Kyle McKee, who has been involved in directing Territorial Days festivities for over a decade, also doubles as a Log Show extraordinaire.

“Well, I’m competing, and I also help organize the show, corral all the contestants, answer questions, keep the show flowing good for the crowd,” McKee explains, humbly leaving out the part about his long-standing involvement in organizing the community-favorite event.

To McKee, the Territorial Days are much more than just an opportunity to show off his skills with a saw; as someone who has seen firsthand how important community pride is for a town like Amboy, McKee says that events like the Log Show are just as much about keeping people connected and remembering their heritage.

“It started in 1952,” McKee explains. “It was the 75th anniversary of the post office in Amboy being established. And a bunch of local loggers decided they wanted to have a competition, and it has morphed into one of the longest running shows in the state of Washington.”

Amboy resident Travis Hafner competes in the axe throw event. Photo by Mike Schultz
Amboy resident Travis Hafner competes in the axe throw event. Photo by Mike Schultz

While the event certainly remains popular among residents of Amboy and the surrounding areas, the Territorial Days Log Show has become a gathering place for loggers from all around the state. A group of competitors from Buckley, WA, make the trip to Amboy every year to take part in the competition, and have become fast friends with their “Ambodian” counterparts through the years.

“It’s kind of a Log Show community,” says McKee. “It’s fun to travel around to their log shows and support them, and have them come to our show, get to catch up with everybody a couple times a year. It’s a fun, fun rivalry.”

Buckley logger Mike Nicholas and his wife, Martha, have both been competing in the Territorial Days Log Show for nearly 20 years. This year, they competed together on a double-bucking saw team. This “Jack and Jill” event (also known as “Ma and Pa” bucking) involves a man and woman team sawing through a log with a two-person bucking saw.

“Well, it’s a Ma and Pa event; it’s really popular at every log show,” Mike Nicholas says of the double-bucking competition. “We just happened to have been able to do it for a long time. We’re both kind of in the 60-year-old bracket, so we’re just king of running a little lean here, but we’ll see what we can do this year.”

The Nicholases won first place for the Jack and Jill bucking, and Martha Nicholas even took home the women’s award for best all-around logger.

Battle Ground High School’s JROTC walked in this year’s Territorial Days Parade. The theme of the parade was “Home of the Free Because of the Brave.” Photo by Mike Schultz
The Marine Cadets of Washington participated in this year’s Territorial Days Parade. The theme of the parade was “Home of the Free Because of the Brave.” Photo by Mike Schultz

For those who were more interested in watching the festivities, the sunny skies and summer breeze provided the perfect setting for spectators to sit on the arena’s grassy viewing area and enjoy the competition from a safe distance. John and Louise Kimball, two regular Territorial Days attendees, brought their two young grandsons, Noah and Parker, to experience the festival for the first time.

“It’s a lot of fun, and we like the climbing, and we like the equipment that comes out and moves the logs around like they’re toothpicks,” John Kimball explains. “These guys, they cut the big logs about as fast as I cut a little dinky log.”

The action and excitement of the log show certainly excited spectators like the Kimballs and their grandsons, but one of the most heartfelt moments of the show was the awarding of the “Bull of the Woods” award, which is given to a senior community member who embodies the culture and heritage of North County’s pioneering outdoors spirit. This year, 84-year-old Jack Kelley was named 2019 Bull of the Woods. Somewhat of a backwoods Renaissance man himself, Kelley spent four years in the US Navy, and worked as a mechanic, welder, and logger throughout his life.

“I never thought it would ever come to me,” Kelley says.

“It’s a great honor to receive that award,” adds his wife, Idonna. “And for him to do it, because he’s done a lot of woods work in the woods. He’s been in there for a long time, and he does a good job.”

Territorial Days ended on Sunday after a full day of events ranging from lawn mower races to a public church service organized by the Amboy Baptist Church.

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