Submitted by Explore Hood Canal

As summer heats up and pandemic restrictions relax, communities around Hood Canal and South Puget Sound are gently phasing back some of their much-loved traditions that formed a framework to bring local families together. And they need your help to make them a success.

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Forest Festival’s first Timber Days event in June attracted families to Shelton for live music and a lantern parade down Railroad Avenue. Photo courtesy: Explore Hood Canal, Mason County Forest Festivals

“We moved here ten years ago when we decided to settle down and raise a family,” reminisced Katelyn Green, an Allyn resident, “We saw an ad in the Tribune for Forest Festival and decided to attend the parade. We loved it. It just felt so right. I told my husband that when we had kids, we wanted to be a part of a small town where people worked together to create simple joy.  You don’t realize how important that stuff is until it’s not in your life. I’m so excited to be involved as all the events get going again after COVID.”

It isn’t easy. Events don’t happen overnight. Preparations include gathering sponsors, securing entertainment and vendors, organizing permits and insurance and a whole lot of financial outlay, all amid a cloud of “will we be able to pull it off? as volunteers struggle with their own challenges of kids’ schooling at the kitchen table and jobs moved remotely – or lost.

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Ella Mae Noble, queen of the seventh annual Mason County Forest Festival (1951), stood at Paul Bunyan’s feet to bring an invitation to visit Shelton during festival days. Photo courtesy: Mason County Historical Society

In 2020 the waves of disappointment and uncertainty were diminished for some as they assured themselves that it was “just for one year,” but as the pandemic rolled into 2021 with just as much vigor, many events faced the reality of being canceled a second year in a row.  An alternative to complete cancelation was modification, postponement or both.

Mason County’s Forest Festival was one such situation.  Seventy-seven years of history is difficult to silence. From the start of the pandemic in 2020 when it became obvious that their late spring event was heading for cancellation, volunteers explored every option possible to provide some of the traditions of the event to the community even though it didn’t include group gathering.  Finally, in late July they accepted defeat and resolved to be back in 2021.

“It was difficult not to be sad,” remarked the 2020 elected Queen of the Forest, Grace Renecker, “I’d dreamt of being queen since I was young. It probably seems like a weird dream to some, but Forest Festival is such a huge part of my family’s history here. It was such an honor.”  Despite the disappointment, Grace proudly represented her court online and in virtual appearances. “It was a hard year for so many families. I’m glad I got the opportunity to represent the festival and to keep everyone’s spirits up when it was needed most!”

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2020 Queen of the Forest, Grace Renecker poses with the 36’ Bunyan mural created to mark the 76th Annul Mason County Forest Festival . Photo courtesy: Explore Hood Canal

Other local events faced the same reality in 2020. OysterFest, the largest event in the county, attempted an online version as did Hoodstock and the Salmon Center’s Music from the Estuary.  Fjord Crossin, Allyn Days, Old Timers Fair in Matlock and Bluegrass from the Forest were amongst the many that were forced to cancel in 2020.

Pivoting is the key word for events this season. The much-anticipated Bluegrass From The Forest, normally held in May, strategized engaging ways bring back the event in 2021. Annually attracting over 3,500 people to Shelton for a weekend festival of national bluegrass performers, organizers reformatted the event for an open air festival in September.

The new reality, at least until the pandemic is but a memory, is to find innovative solutions to enhance the event experience for attendees without sacrificing safety and tradition.  As we head out of this difficult period, it is important to take the time to recognize the challenges that these events face and offer encouragement and support as we transition back to our much loved traditions.

Allyn Day(s)

Allyn, July 17

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The Allyn Days event is located in the heart of the town with spectacular views of Case Inlet from every shady spot. Photo courtesy: Explore Hood Canal

A much-loved summer event—that encompasses seafood, community, live music and craft vendors in a tiny Case Inlet town—is reshaping in 2021 for a one-day event. There’s always plenty to do including a fun run around Lake Anderson (pets welcome) followed by a salmon bake in the Allyn Waterfront Park. The event this year is not including its unique geoduck festival, but they have scheduled a full music line up as well as 50 vendors. Activities for kids include a paintball park activity, petting zoo, bounce house, and a kiddie train ride on the Allyn Pier.  A variety of festival and fair food items will accompany their salmon bake.  The event runs from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. with live bands, including Undecided from 12 p.m.-2:30 p.m.,“Tammy Frost Band from 3 p.m.-4:30 p.m. and The Wednesdays from 5 p.m.-6:30 p.m. The shady beer garden features local breweries Bent Bine and East2West, coupled with wines and ciders.

Although the festival is a one-day event this year, the Allyn Community Association’s vision is to return to the traditional three-day festival in 2022.

“The funds we raise through our admission sales,” said Jason Ilarraza, ACA President, “will better position us to provide the full event in 2022 along with other community events. We may be doing things a little different this year, but it is so great to be able to bring the community back together again.”

Admission can be purchased ($5) online or at the gate.  Details and updates available on Explore Hood Canal.

Expo & Bite of Mason County Street Fair

Shelton, July 16

The Shelton Mason County Chamber of Commerce transforms Railroad Avenue with over 60 vendors featuring display, activities and great food “bites” from local restaurants and caterers.  Activities continue through the afternoon and evening so you can bring the family down after work. Each year, the public votes for the Best Booth and the Golden Fork awards. Top honors last time went to Hood Canal Communications and Tempting Eats & Treats. Who will it be this year? Celebrating the event’s 20th anniversary, admission and parking are free to the public.

Forest Festival Timber Days & Parade

Shelton, July-September

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Forest Festival’s 2021 court is accompanied by the 2020 court for a ride on the float – something that was not possible during the pandemic year. Photo credit: Cooper Studios

Traditionally held the weekend after Memorial Day, Mason County Forest Festival volunteers realized early in the 2021 planning that hosting an event of that size in late spring was doubtful given the Washington State restrictions on gatherings. Proactively they opted to move the parade and fireworks show to September 18, a date that worked with most of the reigning court. Their car show was moved online, and they are hosting a series of smaller evening street fair events throughout the summer to celebrate the area’s timber heritage through Timber Days. The first Timber Days in June was low key given the current safety requirements with two stages to spread out attendees and a themed lantern parade down Railroad Avenue. Later, family classic, “The Princess Bride,” was shown outdoors in Post Office Park.

Timber Days will continue July 29-31, with live music, movies, cornhole championship, food, beer garden, A Royalty Tea at the Colonial House, and a pet and family Parade.

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Union’s Hood Canal Marina will offer a spectacular “backdrop” to Hoodstock’s floating spectator event. Photo courtesy: Explore Hood Canal

In August, the event raises awareness for fire safety and celebrates Smokey the Bear’s 77th birthday with more live music and possibly the return of the carnival.

On September 18 all eyes will be on the 77th Annual Paul Bunyan Grand Parade as it courses downtown Shelton followed by fireworks in the evening.  Details and updates on Timber Days and the cumulating Forest Festival events is available online.

Hoodstock Music Festival

Union, August 21

Social distancing won’t be difficult this year with the unique format the Hoodstock Music Festival is adopting for 2021.  Attendees are invited to purchase a flag and “float” with them in your own personal boat as they enjoy a series of bands from 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.  The concert location is near the Hood Canal Marina, creatively labeled with GPS coordinates: 47.3547° N, 123.1016° W.  A portion of the proceeds from this event will benefit the South Sound YMCA.

Bluegrass From the Forest

Shelton, September 10-12

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Bluegrass from the Forest is transitioning to an outdoor festival in 2021 with two stages and workshop tents for kids. Photo credit: Shawna Whelen

Northwest Bluegrass fans have reason to celebrate and tighten their banjo strings!  After a year of no musical gathers and COVID cancellations last year, Kristmas Town Kiwanis’ Bluegrass from the Forest is planning to make a comeback September at the South Mason Youth Soccer Park on John’s Prairie about two miles from downtown Shelton. Although pandemic restrictions have made it impossible for the festival to be held at the Performing Arts Center, event organizer, Duane Wilson, is excited by the potential for the festival’s 16th year. “We will miss the comfort and all of the amenities that the school theater had to offer but feel there are a lot of positives in having the Festival outdoor,” says Wilson. “The biggest one is space. We have fifteen acres to spread people out. Social distancing should not be a problem.”

And spread out they will, with plans to host two stages areas, a beer and wine garden, and food and vendor spaces near the stages. The festival also will accommodate two RV parking areas and lots of grassy tent sites for out-of-town festival-goers or for locals who want to be part of the whole experience.  For more on the band line-up and to purchase tickets visit the Bluegrass From the Forest website.

All the community events represent dedicated volunteers eager to get back to business, safely! As restrictions loosen, Mason County looks forward to welcoming more traditional events back. The list is changing daily so visit the Explore Hood Canal website for updates and additions.

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