After more than three days of carving in the sun and heat at Loudy-Simpson Park, one artist’s work among 11 stood out Saturday at the finale of the 14th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous.
Ron Eye’s wood carving of a Native American’s head and shoulders, titled “Bosco,” was emphatically chosen as the best carving of the weekend, winning first place from the judges as well as artists’ choice and people’s choice. It was the first carving to take all three categories since Shawn Ward’s “Spell Bound” in 2005.
This was Eye’s fifth year carving at Whittle the Wood. The man from Vernal, Utah, had taken second once and third place twice in the past but had never been handed the biggest award of the weekend.
For victory to come with “Bosco," a very personal work for Eye, made it all the more special.
“My grandfather was named Bosco,” Eye said about his carving. “He was a half-Sioux Indian and he raised me and my brother. He was a Korean War veteran and earned four bronze stars in the Korean War, but we didn’t find that out until after he died.”
Although the real-life Bosco died before Eye started in carving competitions, it wasn’t his plan to pay tribute to his grandfather until right before he came to Craig for this year’s Whittle the Wood.
The piece came together extremely well, he said.
“That’s probably the first piece I’ve walked away from and looked at it and thought to myself, ‘That’s bad-ass,’” Eye said. “I do a lot of carvings every year, and that’s not usually the case.”
Bongo Love, the defending champion in Whittle the Wood, took second place. His carving, called “It’s On,” depicted an eagle protecting its eggs from a snake. Despite missing out on a repeat performance, Love was his usual boisterous self when accepting runner-up honors.
“I want to say thanks to Craig,” Love said. “I started here and the first time I came I didn’t even have a tool. They had to help me get saws so I could carve. Now look where I am.”
Love then engaged the crowd with a chant in Shona, a language from Zimbabwe, which he said meant, “It’s nice to be in a special place where you feel like home.”
Faye Braaten’s flowery carving, titled “Natural Fragrance,” took third place.
That brought another successful wood carving competition to a close. Hundreds milled about the park speaking with artists and admiring their work as they finished carvings Friday afternoon and into the evening, while thousands turned up for most of the day at Loudy-Simpson on Saturday.
“We’ve been doing gate counts, and we had two thousand as of about 3 p.m.,” said Dave Pike, director of Craig Parks and Recreation. “I bet we’ve got over three thousand here now and the concert still to come. It’s been a great turnout, the weather was awesome all week.
“All in all, it’s been a trouble-free day for us, and that’s what you want.”
Nate Waggenspack can be reached at 970-875-1795 or nwaggenspackCraigDailyPress.com