'Absolutely unbelievable'

Sculptors transform wood stumps into art


A chainsaw in the hands of a madman is deadly. In the hands of an artist, it's spellbinding.

The skill and artistry of 10 sculptors will be on display beginning Thursday at Craig City Park, when artists start the process of changing wood into eye-appealing features.

Sculptors hailing from Colo--rado, Wyoming and Utah make up the roster for this year's Whittle the Wood Rendezvous competition. They will work on their projects through Saturday afternoon.

Craig Parks and Recreation Director Dave Pike said onlookers will be amazed at the transformation the artists' canvases -- in this case, tree trunks gathered throughout the year -- undergo in three days.

"Theses guys are really artists," Pike said. "It's like nothing you've ever seen, I guarantee you that. The carvings are amazing. They're absolutely unbelievable."

The sculptors will compete for a first-place prize of $750. Second place earns $500 and third place, $250. Plaques will be awarded for sculptors earning the nods of the crowd and their peers in the People's Choice and Artists' Choice categories.

Some finished works will remain at the park. Others will be sent to various locations across town -- Yampa Valley Golf Course, Craig City Hall, Moffat County Fairgrounds and Craig Chamber of Commerce -- to decorate the landscape.

Sculptors will begin transforming the wood Thursday, but festivities for this year's seventh annual Whittle the Wood festival don't begin in earnest until Saturday.

The city of Craig, Moffat County Tourism Association, Bank of Colorado and American Northwest Realty are this year's sponsors of Whittle the Wood, an event dubbed by organizers as "one of the largest of the year in Craig."

Pike said he estimates a crowd of 5,000 people Saturday.

"We're basing that on last year," he said. "Throughout the day, we'll have 5,000 people coming and going. ... Everybody has a ball."

Sculptors will finish their work by 4 p.m. Saturday. An awards ceremony is scheduled for 5 p.m.

An arts and crafts show, featuring a lineup of about 20 vendors, will begin mid-morning Saturday. Six or seven food vendors will also be at the park.

Musical performances will take place throughout the day. At 3 p.m., Denver musician Kerri Griffith will perform as the opening act. At 6 p.m., the Dave Mason Band will perform.

Mason is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, known primarily for his work in the band Traffic. Mason also has performed with Fleetwood Mac and has opened for Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton.

"He's written several hits and has (performed on) gobs and gobs of albums," Pike said.

Whittle the Wood Rendezvous has been an annual Craig tradition since 1999. It began after a city employee suggested turning several trees that were cut down because of disease into wooden sculptures.

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