Whittling toward a tradition

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Though James Schultz' hair was peppered with wood shavings and sweat trailed down his back, it took a little pleading for the chainsaw artist from Black Forest to take a breather at Craig's Whittle the Wood festival.

The final day of the four-day long event, which previously had been punctuated with rain and thunderstorms, kept carvers working diligently Saturday transforming wooden stumps into life-size sculptures.

"You see what's in the log and sometimes it will tell you what it wants to be," Schultz said, scrutinizing his piece, a bear on the shoulders of another bear looking off into the distance. Schultz named the sculpture, "A better view," but his wife, Bobbi came up with the idea.

James Schultz, like 9 of the 10 carvers competing for cash prizes Saturday, can point out other wooden sculptures in the park that were completed during the festival's first four years. Park sculptures range from abstract designs and animal figurines, to patriotic tributes spurred largely by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Some sculptures completed in past years adorn other landmarks in Craig.

A rotating crowd of about 30 people swarmed near carver Sheldon Roberts as he sprayed wood shavings from his evolving creation "Neptune's Treasure." Almost coming to life Wednesday stood a seascape with a mermaid and the king of the sea looking regally off into the park, atop a host of sea creatures.

"The crowd actually helps because I'm kind of a performer," Roberts said, turning to scan those passing by the sculpture and others propped in lawn chairs Saturday who watched the artist's every slice to the wood.

Vendor Laura Davidson said Saturday was a profitable day for sales. The Craig resident who usually spreads her wares off Victory Way, enjoyed the festival's change of pace. Davidson said she enjoyed watching families leisurely stroll the park grounds, taking in the sculptures, food and craft booths.

"This is a nice and relaxing time for families away from work," she said. "It's a good weekend for families to reunite after school gets out."

Judy and Dave Anderson of Steamboat Springs intrigued customers by selling fried Oreos and fried Twinkies at their food booth, Nanna & Poppa's Place.

After hearing of the idea from a food show, the couple decided to sell the treats.

"I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, these are good,' the first time I tried them," Judy Anderson said. Apparently, others felt the same way Saturday as customers "ohhed" and "ahhed" while sampling the goods.

As the afternoon wore on, the sounds of whirring chainsaws subsided for the first time in days but were soon replaced by the catchy tunes of the bands Tropical Coyotes and Commander Cody.

Seventeen-year-olds David Decker and Connor Walton said they were pleased with this year's festivities as they munched on fried Twinkies and curly fries.

They appreciated that the Whittle the Wood tradition was separate from another Craig festival, Grand Olde West Days.

The pair liked this year's increase in vendors and carvers.

"It's a lot bigger now. It's something our community needs to do more of to help it grow," Decker said.

"We come pretty much every year, but this year it's not just like two little twigs in a hillbilly town."

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