Ken Davis of Montrose was off to a fast start on his carving at the first day of the Whittle the Wood Rendezvous at City Park on Wednesday. He said he returned to the competition after missing a year to spend time with his grandchildren. This year he is carving a young cowboy.

Photo by David Pressgrove

Ken Davis of Montrose was off to a fast start on his carving at the first day of the Whittle the Wood Rendezvous at City Park on Wednesday. He said he returned to the competition after missing a year to spend time with his grandchildren. This year he is carving a young cowboy.

Carvers return for Whittle the Wood Rendezvous

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If you go

What: Ninth Annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous

Where: Craig City Park

When: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday

• Includes voting on the woodcarving competition entries, food and crafts from more than 25 vendors and live music by The Erik Johnson Band and Restless Heart

• For more information, call Dave Pike, Parks and Recreation director, at 826-2006

Chainsaw in hand, Montrose resident Ken Davis began cutting into his selected piece of wood immediately upon setting up in Craig City Park. By the time he is finished, it will be a young cowboy on a stick horse.

Davis, known in his profession as "The Log Crafter," is one of 11 participants in the ninth Annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous, Craig's yearly carving competition open to wood artists from across the country. The event kicked off at 9 a.m. Wednesday with the wood lottery - the participants' random selection of the stumps provided by Craig Parks and Recreation.

After a one-year absence from the rendezvous, Davis said he is glad to return alongside six other carvers who have competed before.

"I was spending time with my grandkids last summer, but I still came up here to see some of my old friends," he said. "I'll be taking it easier this year. My piece is small, and I'm not using any scaffolding. Just staying on the ground."

The cowboy he is carving is part of his efforts to do more family-oriented work.

"He'll have the stick horse, and a big sheriff's star, and his daddy's boots," he said. "I think of a little boy when I hear the word 'cowboy,' not an adult."

One of Davis' sculptures, "Happy DeuBear," stands at the corner of Taylor and Sixth Street, greeting passersby with a smile and a wave.

His fellow carvers are part of the Craig landscape, as well. Bob Waits, of Lander, Wyo., has entries from previous years scattered throughout the park, including frogs, moose and trolls.

Waits has placed in competition consistently during his seven years involved in Whittle the Wood, but the attraction for him is the camaraderie among the carvers.

"It's great because we all get to know each other and every year is like a family reunion," he said.

Forrest Dorman, of Florence, now in his third year, enjoys the friendships he has made, too.

"I love it," he said. "I look forward to it every year because everybody's so nice."

Dorman won second place last year for his lion and lamb sculpture, titled "My Serenity." He plans to carve a mountain lion this year, all while selling some of his smaller carvings.

"I sold all the carvings I brought up last year, so I'm hoping to do that again this year," he said.

Among his array of wooden selections are benches, a monkey and a bird of prey on a perch. Dorman and the other carvers will donate some of their work to the event's silent auction, which will raise money for next year's event.

John Clay, of Beulah, brought a large painted rose similar to the one he auctioned last year, which sold for more than the estimated retail price.

"We get half the money for everything auctioned, and the other half goes to Parks and Recreation as seed money for next year."

Clay won first place last year for "Seventh Chief," but the greater honor for him was winning carvers' choice by vote of his contemporaries.

"This is my fifth year in competition, and last year was the first time that I'd won anything," Clay said. "When I started here, I didn't know what I was doing, and everybody was really helpful. I've learned a lot from them. I'm really just competing against myself because the others are my teachers."

Clay plans to carve a flower-themed sculpture out of his 16-foot piece of wood, though he estimates at least a foot will come off the top.

In selecting a stump, perennial competitor Faye Braaten of Loveland had to make multiple plans for her subject. As one of the last in the wood lottery - the determining factor for what artist gets which piece - she did not get her first choice.

"At first, I wanted to do a bigger thing with a bunch of little girls praying, but I had to choose a different shape," she said. "Now, I'll be doing a bull rider, which I think will be easier."

Braaten has competed in every Whittle the Wood and won people's choice last year for the wolf piece, "Moonlight Madness."

Spectators are encouraged to watch from a safe distance as the carvers work between 8 a.m. and dark Thursday and Friday.

"Come on down and have a good time," Dorman said.

Andy Bockelman can be reached at 875-1796.

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