EWEN, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – Now that summer has come to a close, that doesn’t mean that the festivals are over. There are still plenty of festival-ing to be had around Michigan and that includes the Ewen Log Jamboree today and tomorrow in Ewen, Michigan a small unincorporated community in the northwest part of the Upper Peninsula, about 100 miles west of Marquette in Ontonagon county.
According to Pure Michigan, the scenic village of Ewen is known for its outdoor recreation opportunities with surrounding forests that offer hiking, biking, snowmobiling trails, fishing, and hunting. It’s also known for their Log Jamboree which is hosted by the Ewen Civic Association and this year they are celebrating the 46th anniversary of the event.
It all started when a group of people got together and decided that they wanted to celebrate the history and the heritage of the area and the adventurous spirit of of the lumberjacks. Logging was big in Ewen back in the 1800’s which was known as the “pine days.” Ryon Hokens, president of the Ewen Civic Association, says that back then everything was virgin white pine and they were cutting everything to send down the river. The logs got barged out to Chicago or wherever else they were needed. Some of the logs even got sent along to the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893.
Hokens says that with the nice weather predicted for this weekend, he expects a pretty big crowd – which can sometimes be 300 to 500 people in a town with a population of about 230. He said it’s a good time for the locals and also the former residents who make plans to come back and visit the Jamboree every year just like people do for a big Fourth of July or Labor Day vacation. The fun starts at 10 am today and goes late into the evening with a music concert. On Saturday, the event runs from 8 am until 11 pm when the dance concludes.
The two-day event includes a lot of denim and flannel and good old-fashioned fun where everyone gets together to celebrate Ewen history with food, fun and logs. The Jamboree features a luncheon; bake sale; craft & vendor show; quilt show; a football game; raffles; a rubber ducky race; a dance; cornhole; a parade with RVs, classic cars, stock cars and log trucks; the Loggers Fun Run; and, of course, the Great Lakes Timber Show out of Escanaba.
The show features a program filled with chainsaw carving, ax throwing, crosscut sawing, log rolling and more – combined with humor (and safety of course). For more than 20 years, The Great Lakes Timber Show has been entertaining large crowds at state and county fairs, as well as sportsman and outdoor conservation events, theme parks, and festivals. They’ve also appeared on many TV programs including ABC’s Wild World of Sports and ESPN.
The founder, 69-year-old Bruce Belanger, who is part of the show, is an Escanaba native who began logrolling when he was 17-years-old. Belanger has said that he’s not quite a lumberjack but more of a showman who happens to saw logs – and climb trees. And what is the secret to throwing an ax? “Practice,” he says.
A popular event for the kids during the Jamboree is the “Kids Coin Scramble.” Jars of money are collected all through the fall from businesses around town where people donate their coins. At the Jamboree, the coins are thrown into a big pile of sawdust. Hokens says that there are hundreds of dollars in coins sprinkled into the sawdust and the kids, which are broken up into different age groups, will dig through the sawdust for money. Apparently this event has been going on for a while as 48-year-old Hokens says that he dug for the coins when he was young and said it was “the greatest thing in the world.”
Another popular kids event at the Jamboree is the “Silver Dollar” game. Hokens says that the association collect toys all year long and the kids pick a poker chip at the Jamboree with a number on them. The number corresponds with a prize. He says there are hundreds of prizes so every kid gets to win something. He also said there is a lot of wheeling and dealing going on with kids trading one toy for another.
Any money collected during the event, including an admission fee for the dance, goes towards the Ewen Civics Association for the betterment of the community. In addition to the Jamboree, they sponsor other events during the year and they also have a centennial hall that they built in 1989 for the community’s use.