PSW News

August 2005


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PSW at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Photo: Secretary Johanns, Chief Bosworth, and Secretary of the Smithsonian Lawrence Small watch as the Fiddlin' Foresters entertain the festival crowd.Jan Werren has recently returned from working as a roving interpreter at the Forest Service centennial presentation at the annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall in Washington D.C. The event, which ran from June 23-27 and from June 30-July 4, presented “Forest Service, Culture, and Community” to 1.1 million enthusiastic visitors.

The Forest Service program was the result of two and one-half years of research which supplied over 500 interviews of FS employees, retirees, and community collaborators. As one of about 35 employees and retirees throughout the nation who conducted videotaped interviews, Jan completed 35 oral histories in northern California. PSW employees who shared their experiences are Haiganoush Preisler, Sylvia Mori, Chet Ogan, Rod Nakamoto and Brian Konnersman.

Festival opening ceremonies featured a few words from Forest Service Chief Bosworth; Department of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns; and Secretary of the Smithsonian Lawrence Small. Former Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley described the hands-on event as the place where museum items finally are taken out of their glass cases. This year’s event included three other programs: “Food Culture USA ,” “Nuestra Musica: Music in Latino Culture,” and Oman : Desert, Oasis, and Sea.”

Photo: Smokejumper DemonstrationAt the Folklife Festival, over 100 Forest Service employees and cooperators shared their experiences with families, DC residents and public servants, schoolchildren, and people from all over the world. Forest Service presenters who shared their skills, stories and traditions included foresters, trail makers, archaeologists, wildlife biologists, environmental engineers, firefighters and smokejumpers, woodcarvers, camp cooks, musicians, storytellers, backcountry rangers, and recreation specialists. Jan’s job was to introduce musicians, dutch oven cooks and wildlife biologists at the beginnings of their programs; and to roam the Festival grounds as an interpreter.

Individual participants included Dennis Vroman, retired wildlife biologist and bird-banding expert from the Siskiyou National Forest , who worked with PSW bird experts at Redwood Sciences Lab for many years. He continues bird-banding in retirement.

Gordon Grant from Pacific Northwest Research Station, Corvallis , created and demonstrated a 25-foot stream sedimentation model. It was very popular, especially at “flood time.” Herb Schroeder of the North Central Research Station from Evanson , Illinois shared his expertise in environmental psychology while Jane Smith from the Northwest Research Station discussed research botany and mycology.

Other research efforts presented at the Festival came from the Forest Products Laboratory in Madison , Wisconsin : Charles Hillary dealt with pulp and paper experimentation and Karen Martinson/Michael Ritter were responsible for the sustainable resource house which was built on the Mall. The National Seed Laboratory from Lafayette , Indiana sent Robert Karrfalt to the Festival.

Photo: G.W. Chpaman (right), the man who saved Smokey Bear from a fire in 1950, signs autographs.A favorite was G.W. Chapman, the man who saved Smokey Bear when he was burned in a fire in New Mexico . It was 1950, and G.W. was a 20-year-old firefighter. Flash, a Forest Service fish and game tracking dog, brought his human - Jeff Bryden, lead law enforcement officer for the Chugach National Forest in Alaska . Chuck Williams was the Forest Service's technical consultant for the "Lassie" TV show, which featured a Forest Service ranger and his family. Chuck also was creator of the first Woodsy Owl public service spot.

Several Forest Service musicians entertained festival-goers in the huge Sounds of the Forest tent. Four women from central Oregon form the Riders in the Dirt country/bluegrass band. The Fiddling Foresters is a string band from the Rocky Mountain Region. Range conservationist Chuck Milner and family came from Oklahoma to perform original cowboy songs. Several other individuals and groups performed.

Smokejumpers demonstrated how to rappel out of a tree, if you find yourself stranded there after your jump. One of the most popular venues was the lookout building which was constructed on the site and “manned” by Donna Ashworth, who has 21 years of lookout experience in Arizona .

Photo: Jan Werren (Right) with Heather Murphy, wildlife biologist from Lake Wenatchee Ranger District  on the Wenatchee National Forest.MY COMMENTS: Contributing to the Forest Service centennial celebration through the Smithsonian Folklife Festival is a career highlight for me. The pride I have for Forest Service people, both current and retired, was justified through the many folks I met during the interview process as well as when I experienced the great job our FS coworkers did at the Festival.

The Forest Service New Century of Service office sponsored the event. Their website is


Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage website is:

Pacific Southwest Research Station
800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710
(510) 559-6335