Bongo Love stands next to his event-winning piece, “When We Are Together,” during the 11th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous on Saturday at Craig City Park.

Photo by Shawn McHugh

Bongo Love stands next to his event-winning piece, “When We Are Together,” during the 11th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous on Saturday at Craig City Park.

Large crowd turns out for annual Whittle the Wood festival in Craig

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2010 Whittle the Wood Rendezvous winners:

• First place: Bongo Love, “When We Are Together”

• Second place: Sheldon Roberts, “Amazing Grace”

• Third place: Ron Eye, “Oblivious”

• Carver’s choice: Bongo Love, “When We Are Together”

• People’s choice: Sheldon Roberts, “Amazing Grace”

At 1 p.m. Saturday, nine chainsaws roared to life in unison.

Nine woodcarvers danced around their stumps as wood chips flew like confetti from the contact point, where machine meets nature and art comes into existence — in under an hour.

The quick carve competition, a new event at the 11th Annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous, was like a concentrated version of the four-day festival at Craig City Park.

A crowd of thousands had the opportunity to watch the chainsaw carving process unfold before their eyes, from rough tree stump to intricate carving within the one-hour deadline.

But, not all of the 12 wood carvers in this year’s festival participated in the quick carve.

Three competitors remained at their large statues, putting the finishing touches on their entries in the annual woodcarving competition.

The 12 carvers were given their stumps Wednesday, and had four days to complete an original statue before the main event Saturday.

Vendors, artists, concessions and live music contributed to the festivities Saturday, which drew 5,000 people to Craig City Park, event officials said.

Carver Sheldon Roberts, who won second place and the people’s choice award, said he was honored to have received the most votes from the public.

“That’s the ultimate,” he said. “There’s nothing higher.”

His piece, entitled “Amazing Grace,” was inspired by his best friend, he said.

“She was putting mousse in her hair, and she flipped it over to one side, and it fell just like that,” Roberts said, gesturing toward his statue of an angelic figure with waves of hair cascading down her shoulders. “Angels are timeless.”

He said the competition was tougher than ever this year, but it is the friendly camaraderie that keeps him returning year after year.

“Everybody stepped up in a big way,” he said. “I’m so proud of everyone. That’s why I come … to hang out with these guys. I love them all.”

Bongo Love, the carver who won awards for first place and artist’s choice, said putting a final flourish on his piece was what made it stand out.

“It’s kind of unique,” Love said of his ocean-themed statue of carved sea turtles. “A lot of people are not finishing their work, and I think it’s putting that finish on it and taking your time. It’s the uniqueness of it and how it flows.”

Dave Pike, event coordinator and Craig Parks and Recreation director, said Love was a late addition to the competition, filling in for a carver who could not attend.

“I would have hated to be a judge this year,” Pike said. “There were some really good carvings.”

Although the chainsaw carving competition was the centerpiece of the festival, Whittle the Wood was an event that had something for everyone, including the finale: a free concert by 1970s rock band Blue Oyster Cult.

Lorraine Counts, of Craig, pushed her 2-year-old son, Tristen around in his stroller as she perused vendors.

She purchased a dog dish holder and a few carved coat hangers for her children’s rooms.

“This is a great community event,” she said. “It has a lot of benefits to the community because it draws so many people in.”

She said the woodcarvings are what bring her to the park each year, but she couldn’t pick out her favorite.

“There’s some really nice ones. But then again, there are always some really nice ones,” she said. “That’s the biggest thing that draws you down.”

For Love, whose carving business is based in Lafayette, it was people that made his trip to Craig a memorable experience.

“This is a good place,” he said. “People have fun and it’s been a good time.”

He said his statue might be permanently placed next to the pool at Craig City Park, where he hopes it will remain for decades to come.

“I’m going to come back in 20 years,” Love said. “I’ll come back and bring my children or my grandchildren and it will be nice.

“I’ll say, ‘Look what I did.’”

Nicole Inglis can be reached at 875-1793 or ninglis@craigdailypress.com.

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