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Looking forward to the SHOW

Industry people are looking forward with anticipation to the Swan Valley Forestry Exhibition, being held June 6 to 8.

By John Dietz

Prairie loggers and contractors from northwestern Ontario are looking forward with anticipation to this year's Swan Valley Forestry Exhibition, which will feature a broad and exciting range of exhibitors and events.

"This exhibition is unique in the Prairie provinces," says Glenda Peyton, project manager with the exhibition. Held near Swan River, Manitoba on June 6 to 8, Manitoba's biennial forestry show takes place just inside the north boundary of Duck Mountain Provincial Forest, about 15 kilometres east of Swan River and 16 kilometres south of Minitonas, on Provincial Road 366. Shuttle service from Swan River and Minitonas makes the site easily accessible for a day-trip.

The Swan Valley, approximately 500 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg, was declared the Forest Capital of Canada in 1998. As part of the Forest Capital designation, a Forest Capital Legacy Project was undertaken to serve as a lasting reminder of the year the valley was recognized for its interdependence with the forest.
"We built this legacy site and started having our show there in 1998," says Peyton. The site measures about 960 acres.

It has a commercial, mixed stand of spruce and poplar forest in all stages of growth and is "open" year-round for educational purposes.
Peyton's phone was ringing steadily
as plans were being made for the 2002 show. She'd had calls from exhibitors and possible visitors from Oregon, Minnesota, Wisconsin, British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Ontario, and of course, Manitoba.

The 2000 show was nearly rained out, but exhibitors, contractors and most of the 2000-plus visitors were happy they came.

The three-day show has a mixture of live action demos and static displays, plus food, fresh air and entertainment. A seven kilometre trail circles and winds through the scenic site. Tractors pulling wagons, with benches holding up to 30 people, provide steady shuttle service.

"The live action is what draws the crowd," Peyton says. "People get to see all the equipment involved in modern logging operations. We even have a chipper running, loading a van."
Every person entering the gate is issued a hard hat for the day, she notes. "You don't have to wear it around the food booths and in the main areas, but everybody puts on a hard hat when they go out to the trail. The kids love it."

Some attractions have special appeal to schools and families. "We have loggers on site that skid logs with horses, to show people how it used to be done," she says. "We always have a chain saw carver. He's wood carving all day for people. We have a magician wandering around the site, too, and that attracts the children."

Educational tours and a visit to the model forest display are big attractions for schools. "We have a silviculture demo site, where we do tree planting. You can watch a scarifier work up the ground and observe a tree planting operation."  Members of Manitoba's fire-fighting teams will be on site as a special highlight, says Peyton, if they're not on active duty fighting real forest fires.
"They send out a crew that's trained to put on a display. Smokey the Bear will also be on duty teaching one and all about fire prevention." Peyton says.

The first day, in fact, is dedicated to educational programs. "We schedule bus loads of kids to go out there. We take them on a tour for a hands-on forestry experience."
The Swan Valley Loggers & Haulers Association, sponsors of the show, has endeavoured to bring in a variety of exhibitors from equipment manufacturers to support sales, as well as educational exhibits.

Two 120-foot tents offer a sheltered venue for the commercial, educational, industry and agency-sponsored exhibitors. Numerous other exhibitors can be found spaced around the loop. Some of the latest models of logging and sawmilling equipment will be found at sites in the bush. Some exhibitors book space for live action demos, others settle for a static exhibit.

"Once we know who's going to cut, we ribbon off certain areas, and that's all they're allowed-so we preserve the site for future generations," Peyton says.  Live action demos are scheduled to purposely avoid overlaps, so that competitors aren't running equipment at the same time.

Loggers who aren't kicking tires on new equipment sometimes have questions for industry officials. At the show, they'll find representatives of Manitoba's four largest mills plus booths with officials from Transport Compliance and Permits, Workplace Safety and Health, Natural Resources and other industry-related offices.
Organizers appreciate the importance of the forest industry to Manitoba, says Peyton. They put extra effort into making the event a positive experience for everyone attending.

Most of Swan River's hotel space is booked ahead, she says. Good camping, fully serviced, is available about 15 minutes south of the show site at Wellman Lake.

The free shuttle bus service from Swan River or Minitonas runs hourly between the gate and local hotels. A shuttle van service also operates on PR366 for drivers parked along the provincial road. "If you park a half-mile from the gate, the van will pick you up and run you to the site."

Peyton has been project manager since the first Swan Valley show in 1995. That year, it was held in a banquet room at a Swan River motel. The next year it went to a curling rink. It expanded there again, before moving to the newly-dedicated legacy site in Duck Mountain Provincial Park.

"We started this to educate the public," she recalls. "We wanted more public awareness of the forest industry, and we wanted to make people in the industry realize how important they are to our provincial economy."

The legacy site was set aside by Manitoba Conservation for a variety of educational purposes. At the centre of it is the Duck Mountain Interpretive Centre, a vintage log cabin that was moved to the site in memory of the founder of Spruce Products Limited, Frank Marvin. This display centre offers a great variety of exhibits and information.

Developed throughout the site are hiking trails that serve as cross-country ski trails in winter. Students in the high school forestry program at Swan Valley Regional Secondary School are maintaining them.

Community support has been vital to the show's growth, Peyton says. "Almost every service club in town is there to help and participate in the action. The school division supplies bus drivers. Other towns in the Swan Valley supply drivers for the tractor-shuttles. Our 4-H kids look after all the clean-up every evening. The band booster club distributes and collects hardhats."
Attendees and exhibitors will be able to take advantage of those long June evenings in Swan River. "On Friday night, we have a barbecue and dance in Swan River for exhibitors and their customers," Peyton says. "At the site, we have food booths, a beer garden and entertainment each evening. Then, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday morning, we start the day with pancake breakfasts."


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