The Bulldogs might not have been on fire up in Lexington that Saturday, but it was a hot one down in Starkville. The calendar called Saturday, September 22 the first official day of fall, but summer had no plans to go down without a fight. The 2018 Mid-South Forestry Equipment Show opened on Friday, September 21, which was technically the last day of summer—and it was a scorcher, but the temperature did nothing at all to dissuade the hardy members of the logging community from showing up.
In fact, the woman behind the madness, show runner Misty Booth, reports that this year’s crowd was right up there with the biggest MSFES has ever seen. The record high for two-day attendance (7,165) was achieved at the last show in 2016; this year, the number was neck-and-neck at 7,048. Also, a close second to the record set in ’16 was the number of exhibitors: 91 this year to 93 two years ago. As well, 1,110 loggers and foresters earned a total of 4,191.5 credit hours of continuing education.
Food cooked on-site on Saturday in the live area is always delicious.
The event again took place at the Charles E. Burkhardt Pavilion and Site on Mississippi State University’s John W. Starr Memorial Forest, seven miles south of Starkville along highway 25. Partners in MSFES are Mississippi State University-Forest & Wildlife Research Center, Mississippi Loggers Assn., Mississippi Forestry Assn. and Hatton-Brown Publishers.
Money collected for Log-A-Load for Kids at MSFES set a new show record: $26,990.82. Among the contributors were Stribling Equipment, TraxPlus, FMI and Caterpillar. B&G Equipment auctioned a fire pit and matched donations received at their site during a catfish lunch on Saturday. Sales and raffles coordinated by the Mississippi Loggers Assn. also factored into the total, as did a $6,000 contribution made by Mid-South Forestry Equipment Show, Inc. in memory of W. J. Bates, co-founder of B&G Equipment. Bates served on the MSFES Board of Directors for eight years. MLA coordinates the Log-A-Load for Kids program in Mississippi, which benefits the Blair E. Batson Hospital for Children in Jackson.
The Log-A-Load total also included proceeds from entrance fees to the Guess-the-Weight Contest, in which the closest guessers won cash prizes. Of 64 participants, Patrick Stanby of Aliceville, Ala., won $100 for his guess (78,700 lbs.) on the hardwood pulpwood truck (actual weight: 78,760 lbs.) provided by Billy Sanford of S&F Logging in Mantee, Miss. Glen Henderson of Richton, Miss. also took home $100 for guessing that a pine log truck (belonging to Johnny Black of Johnny Black Logging, Ackerman, Miss.) weighed 83,500 lbs. (actual weight: 83,520 lbs.).
A total $1,000 in prizes went to the winners of the show’s skidder contest, in which operators competed a John Deere machine against a Tigercat. B&G Equipment (Tigercat) and Stribling Equipment (John Deere) sponsored the contest. Only the three best times of the 62 contestants won. First place winner Grant Lofton of Perry Lofton Logging, Mt. Vernon, Ala., took home $500 for his time of 1:30.34 on the John Deere skidder. Trent Magee of Star Timber in Brookhaven, Miss. took second place and $300 with his 1:31.46 time using the Tigercat. Rounding out the winners in third place was Jacob Henderson of Henderson Timber Felling, Inc., Richton, Miss., winning $200 for finishing the course with a time of 1:37.16 on the Tigercat skidder.
Two more got cash by way of door prize drawings: James Sessums of Lena, Miss., and Sandy Martin of Mendenhall, Miss., both won $1,000. MaxxSouth Broadband and Taylor Machine Works each sponsored a door prize.
John Deere showed off its new L-II series skidders and wheeled feller-bunchers, which had just debuted earlier that week. Justin McDermot, Forestry Sales Manager for John Deere in the U.S. and Canada, said, “We’re excited to roll these out. The reality is that the late-model Ls are not the same as the ones in 2015. It has been a continuous process of improvement. Customers tell us what we need to do better and we incorporate that.”
The big news from Caterpillar was the pending sale of its forestry division to Weiler Equipment, Inc. At the Puckett Machinery/Thompson Machinery site, Caterpillar customers had a chance to meet owner Pat Weiler and VP of Sales Bill Hood, who were on hand Friday to give a brief background on their company and a glimpse of their vision for the future.
Both dealers and customers seem optimistic about the change. “I think this is the path,” said Puckett’s Sean Doyle. “I think that Weiler being a small, family-owned manufacturing operation that’s focused on engineering gives it a chance to take this niche product and become a leader in the industry. Their track record indicates that they’re capable of doing just that.” A logger who runs all Cat equipment, Byron Baggett of Elite Forest Products in Chatsworth, Ga., sees it the same way. “I spoke with Mr. Weiler yesterday, and was very impressed,” Baggett said. “I was upset at first, but not now. I’m on board, and I’m looking at buying a new Cat cutter right now.”
At the MLA Awards Banquet, held Friday night, jokester Jerry Carroll, who grew up on a farm in North Carolina, brought entertainment in the blue collar/country comedy tradition of Jerry Clower. Executive Director David Livingston presented MLA awards and recognitions, including to the 2018 Mississippi Logger of the Year, TDK Logging, based in Columbus. President Sam O’Bryant accepted.