“Do You Work in the Forest or the Mill?”

May 27, 2021 8:56 am

"Do You Work in the Forest or the Mill?"

By: Rachel Harris, DOF Utilization & Marketing Specialist

Every so often, loggers emerge from the woods and sawmill operators shake off the sawdust to join together at an industry event and catch up on the latest news. The fourth weekend in May was a beautiful choice for the 37th East Coast Sawmill and Logging Equipment Exposition, allowing members of the forest industry to gather once again in person and see the latest in machinery and technology that the forest industry has to offer. The chance to get together in person for the first time in over a year generated a happy buzz in the air that was tangible and exciting! Being able to see smiling faces and not have to look through a computer camera allowed for that “normal” feeling we have all been waiting so long to feel again.

DOF staff talk with Expo visitors

DOF staff talk with Expo visitors

The “Expo” is held every other year at the Richmond International Raceway, alternating the spotlight with a similar show held in Atlanta, Georgia on its “off” year. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the most recent Expo was postponed more than once, and was finally allowed to proceed in May of 2021. I was shocked at the number of people who came out to attend the event, given the several date changes. I chalk that up to excitement about in-person events coming back into the realm of possibilities, and the draw of what I fondly refer to as life-size Tonka toys sitting in the lot just waiting to be explored!

Grownup toys!

Grownup toys!

Inside the exhibit hall, vendors were ready to inform attendees of ideas to increase the efficiency of sawmills or improve logging operations. Exhibitors and guests alike were happy to be back together, and conversations flowed as business inquiries were made and colleagues caught up on happenings over the course of the pandemic. Mill workers, loggers, and landowners from Virginia, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, to name a few, eased from booth to booth to take in videos, product show pieces, and company giveaways, and to ask questions that had been held in until we could all gather again.

Outdoor displays had the latest in logging equipment, pallet manufacturing systems, firewood processors, tire manufacturers, kiln operations, and so much more. The outside exhibit area was humming with people studying the large engines in the skidders, watching pallets being assembled, deciding if they wanted to buy that new firewood processor, and checking out the operator cabs of equipment to see how it felt. There were live demonstrations of the capabilities of chainsaws and big screen televisions running video of logging equipment being put to the test in the forest.

While participation was smaller this year (due to exhibitor logistics and virus mandates still being a bit tricky), plans are in the works for 2022 to be a big blowout, with top-level attendance and pull-out-the- stops displays! I am looking forward to helping design the Virginia Department of Forestry’s display for the 2022 show and seeing what the event looks like when it is back to normal capacity and in its full glory. Be sure to come see all the Expo has to offer in May 2022, and stop by the Virginia Department of Forestry’s booth to learn about the latest in forest health, management and our impactful programs.

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