Wooden it be nice

Whittle the Wood begins at Craig City Park

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— With the roar of a chainsaw and the patience of a saint, the participants of Craig's annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous can create works of art.

The ninth annual Whittle the Wood carving competition begins at 9 a.m. today in Craig City Park. Dave Pike, Craig Parks and Recreation director, oversaw the planning for the event.

"We've got 11 carvers this year," he said. "We originally had 12, but one of them had to drop out at the last minute because of injury."

Seventeen carvers initially signed up for the competition, but Pike and his staff had to whittle down the selections to the current number.

"We sent out about 300 brochures to people around the country," recreation facilitator Pam Maneotis said. "We've had a really good response. In fact, I think this is the first year we've actually had to turn down carvers."

Returning to the competition are John Clay, Ken Davis and Robert Waits, as well as four other carvers who have placed well in previous years.

"All seven of the carvers that are returning have placed in the competition before," Pike said. "Six of them have done it more than once."

Carvers from Utah, Nebraska and Iowa also will be in attendance.

The four-day timeframe begins with today's tree lottery, in which carvers select a random number from a hat to pick from the stumps provided for the event. Pike insists that this year's wood is in fine shape.

"It's mostly cottonwoods, although there may be a few elms," he said. "It's the luck of the draw some years, but getting first pick doesn't always mean you'll win. One year, the last stump was the one that won."

Carvers are allotted time from 8 a.m. until dark, Wednesday through Friday, to craft their sculptures, by use of chainsaw or any other necessary tools. The subject of the carving is open.

All work must cease by 4 p.m. Saturday for the judging to begin. The rendezvous will begin at 11 a.m. that day with 20 craft vendors and six to seven food vendors.

The event has a "bring your own alcohol" status, with people welcome to bring in their own coolers and chairs. Spectators are asked not to bring pets.

Greeley musical group The Erik Johnson Band will perform from 3 to 5 p.m., and the winners of the carving competition will be announced then. The band Restless Heart will take the stage at 5:30 p.m.

"I think the whole show will be really good this year," Pike said. "It'll be very competitive."

Pike encourages the community to drop by the park to view the carver's progress during the next few days.

"Everybody should try to see the carvings once or twice a day," he said. "If you just see them once they're finished on Saturday, you won't appreciate the work that went into them. It's amazing what comes out of those pieces of wood."

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