Paul Bunyan Festival celebrates 20th anniversary
This year it will take place Friday, July 6 and Saturday, July 7. It begins with a street dance from 8 p.m. to midnight Friday night at the Lassen County Visitors Center, Westwood Station followed by a parade through the streets of Westwood Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m. The festival is at Westwood Park and general admission is $5. Gates open at 10 a.m.
The festival was launched in 1988 with the unveiling of the Paul Bunyan statue in front of the community center. Alex de Martimprey, one of the six original festival organizers, said so much excitement was generated by the statue carved by artisans at Burlwood Industries in Arcata, California that hundreds of people showed up for the event. The statue, which was shaped from a 1,000 year old Redwood tree 22-feet long and 12-feet in diameter, cost $10,000.
Eileen Majors, a member of the original organization committee, said, “The statue unveiling was huge. I have never seen more people gathered in Westwood.”
She added the Associated Press distributed a photo of the statue wrapped in a parachute during the Fourth of July parade in Chester, a ploy to generate excitement for the unveiling.
The planning committee for the first festival went all out. Although the chamber only had $400 to spend the estimated cost for all the festivities was $40,000. To help raise money sponsors were solicited.
De Martimprey remembers approaching the manager of D&L Distributing in Susanville to ask for both money and product. The manager asked the committee members two questions: “Have you ever done a project like this?” and “When you did a project like this was it successful?” He added that he would not sponsor an event if the answer were “no” to either question.
Although the committee could not answer “yes” to either question they got the sponsorship because they were so passionate about the festival.
“That kind of response is more meaningful than the financial contribution,” said de Martimprey.
The first festival was truly a community affair, and it still is today. In 1988 the Westwood High Spanish Class organized a Mexican dinner at the Community Center for Friday evening and a multitude of people put on mountain bike rides varied in difficulty Saturday morning. According to Majors so many activities were taking place throughout the town that one sponsor, Susanville Motors, provided transportation between venue sites.
At the 2007 festival the Westwood Museum will serve breakfast at the Community Center starting at 7 a.m. According to Allen Vaughan, museum president, the menu is varied and priced accordingly up to $7.
The Westwood Family Resource Center is running the children’s carnival at the festival with lots of games and activities. There are also many local organizations that will have booths at the food court.
At the first festival the logging show was an international affair with competitors from as far away as New Zealand and Australia. The committee worked with a logging show producer to create the first competition however now the show is produced by Medici Logging, a Westwood company and many of the competitors are local as well.
Although blues bands were not a part of the original festival they have become a big part of the festivities and draw fans throughout the region. Returning for the 20th anniversary is the J.C. Smith Band from the San Francisco Bay Area.
Understanding that the festival is part tradition and part new, updated activities that appeal to people in 2007 the Board of Directors for the Westwood Chamber of Commerce chose the theme “Old Times, New Beginnings” for the 20th anniversary of the Paul Bunyan Mountain and Blues Festival.
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