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May 2004

Forest Expo Index

ForestExpo stays on top

Forest Expo is maintaining its heritage of being a “must attend” show on the forest industry calendar, with new features each year and an always strong focus on cutting-edge harvesting equipment.







When it started out in 1985, it was the Prince George Regional Forest Exhibition, and the show now known as Forest Expo was a hit from its very first year.

Time flies. It’s been 19 years since the first Forest Expo. Back in 1985, it was called the Prince George Regional Forest Exhibition. And it was the realization of a vision. “The show is the first and largest of its kind in Western Canada,” announced Bill Fehr, 1985’s chairman of the show’s organizing committee of volunteers. “The intent of the exhibition is to give people a real feel for the forest industry. We plan on active displays and demonstrations to show people what the industry does. The associated events mean that everyone—the public, the companies, the associations and the other organizations—will benefit and get something out of the exhibition.”

Well, they did and still do. About 14,000 people took in that first show spread across five days in May. The show had 175 exhibitors. Visitors witnessed demonstrations of helicopter rap-attack techniques used in fighting forest fires. Prescribed forest fires were started with a drip torch and water bombers flew over, depositing their loads with precision. Loggers’ sports reprised old woods skills in friendly competition. The ‘85 exhibition hosted a panel discussion on forest renewal. Participants included Bill Young, Les Reed, Doug Little, Charlie Johnson and Gary Lloyd. From its inception, the show reflected change. In 1985, it staged a seminar on harvesting and processing beetle-killed timber. In the bush, roadside logging was turning the trend away from skidding to landings.

Log processors and harvesters were becoming increasingly sophisticated and efficient. Meanwhile, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) was encouraging forest consultants to plan projects in China. Lakeland Mills of Prince George and IWA Local 1-424 had been awarded a Canada Award of Excellence for minimizing the impacts of technological change. Bill Kordyban at Carrier Lumber was re-defining portable sawmilling (again) in a wood salvage operation south of Houston. Prince George celebrated its 70th anniversary of incorporation in 1985, but a northern university remained a dream. It wasn’t until 10 years ago, in 1994, that the University of Northern British Columbia became fully operational. The organizers were buoyed by the success of the first Prince George Regional Forest Exhibition. They immediately began planning for another in 1986.

The show was trimmed to four days and pushed back to the end of May/June. That was done to avoid conflict with Expo 86’s Vancouver opening. The organizers hoped to attract some Expo 86 visitors north to Prince George’s exhibition. The forestry equipment displayed at the show that year was valued at $22 million. After the 1986 version, the organizers opted for the biennial format. The thinking was to keep the show fresh and up-to-date. The show became Forest Expo in 1994. “The new name was chosen to better reflect the international interest and reputation of this biennial event,” said John Kelly, show chairman that year. And so the tradition continues. Forest Expo has become sharper, sleeker, more focused. Other forest industry shows have faltered. Forest Expo remains relevant, despite changing and difficult times in the industry. And that’s got a lot to do with that vision, first revealed in 1985.

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