Annual festival draws more than 300 spectators

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Sun, fun and wood chips.

All three worked together to make Saturday's the Whittle Da Wood Wandezvous wood carving festival a success. The City Park festival drew 12 artisans, some from as far away as Romania, but the title went to someone who lives a little closer.

Ken Davis of Montrose carved the animal totem pole called the "Watchful Eye," which won him first place and $750.

Sheldon Roberts of Salida won second place with his carving called "Wisdom." His prize was $500.

Minda Buga of Lithuania was the only international artisan to take top honors at Whittle Da Wood. He earned third place with his work titled "Mother with Papoose."

Four local carvers competed.

While the majority of the wood sculptures at the festival were inspired by nature, other themes from the geometric to the religious flourished.

Carvings featured large tropical parrots, angels in lament and even Tigger from Whinnie the Pooh.

The Whittle Da Wood Wandezvous was started last year as a solution to a tree removal problem the City Parks and Recreation Department faced.

The department had to remove a number of dying trees. The cost of the stump removal exceeded what the Parks and Recreation Department expected, so an alternative was found.

"We held a meeting to decide how we were going to get rid of the stumps, and someone thought up a wood carving festival," said Pam Brethauer, Parks and Recreation Department administrator. "They've held a festival like Whittle Da Wood in Breckinridge for years. In fact, this year is the first that they won't hold one."

To attract wood carvers to the event, the Parks and Recreation Department came up with a number of incentives. The artisans are given $150 to participate and stay either at the Holiday Inn or Taylor Bed and Breakfast. All but one of their meals are donated by local restaurants. They are also given free beverages while they are carving at the festival.

This year offered a different twist, since most of the park's stumps were carved at last year's festival.

"We had to bring in stumps and plant them in the ground, since we were only down to a few of the original from last year's tree trimming," Brethauer said.

"Since many of this year's works can be moved, we're thinking about sticking them in the parks all over town."

The move is slated for later this summer or next spring.

This year's festival drew more than 300 spectators, which exceeded its first year, ensuring the wood chips will once again be flying next year, though at another end of the park.

"We have more then 15 sculptures at the north end of the park, so next year's Whittle Da Wood will most likely be held at the south end," Brethauer said. "All of next year's stumps will have to brought in and planted for the festival, but it will work out since we want to place the sculptures all around town."

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