Rough and ready

Whittle the Wood Rendezvous begins Wednesday

Five years ago, city staff turned a problem into a possibility. The problem was dying trees in City Park; the possibility was creating art out of the stumps.

The possibility became reality, and Whittle the Wood Rendezvous is now a popular annual event.

Louis Hahn, Craig resident of 30 years, is one of the event's many fans.

"It's amazing how they do that. I think it's a great asset to Craig," Hahn said.

This year's festivities begin Wednesday at 9 a.m. when the 10 registered chainsaw artists will choose the stump they'll work with. Over the succeeding days, they'll nip away at the logs until something beautiful emerges.

The festival ends with a free concert next Saturday.

Third-year contestant, Robert Waits of Lander, Wyo., recalled his first day three years ago.

"I got a tree with a hollow middle. I looked at it and didn't know what to do. I carved faces all the way around. I didn't expect to place there."

Figuring out new ideas is one of the challenges artists such as Waits often face. He said when he comes to Whittle the Wood, he is inspired by all of the creativity around him. It's not that he gets ideas from others, but that the creative energy is contagious, he said.

The best thing about Whittle the Wood for Waits is how well Parks and Recreation takes care of the artists.

"They clean up after you as fast as you can make a mess -- which is really fast with a chainsaw. They really take care of you," Waits said. He described it as a paid vacation.

Pam Brethauer, Craig parks and recreation department coordinator, said that the department does its best to make the artists comfortable. She said four local hotels donated rooms, local restaurants donated food, and the artists are provided $150 to offset their travel expenses.

The best thing about the event for Brethauer is seeing the sculptures evolve from beginning to end, she said.

"It is so fun to come down on Wednesday to see how they're starting out and then come Thursday for a few hours to see how it takes shape," Brethauer said.

Some artists finish early Saturday and continue sculpting other pieces for a silent auction.

Half the proceeds from the silent auction go to help fund the event and the other half go to the artists.

Artists will work from 9 a.m. until dark Wednesday through Saturday.

About 40 craft booths and a dozen food booths will cater to visitors Saturday. The results of the silent auction will be announced at 5 p.m. that night.

Tropical Coyotes will open a free concert by The Commander Cody Band.

The opening act starts at 3 p.m. and is followed by Commander Cody from 6 to 8 p.m.

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