20 years: Whittle the Wood Rendezvous celebrates two decades in Craig | CraigDailyPress.com

20 years: Whittle the Wood Rendezvous celebrates two decades in Craig

Robert Waits wields his saw at the 20th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous.
Andy Bockelman

Dave Pike was feeling a proud sense of disbelief Wednesday.

As an excited crowd of a dozen carvers gathered for the 20th opening ceremony of Whittle the Wood in Craig, the director of Craig Parks and Recreation asked if anyone else in the group could fathom it.

“Twenty years,” Pike said as an opening salvo Wednesday morning. “Can you believe it?”

All the carvers gathered Wednesday were excited as some looked back on more than 10 years competing in Craig’s wood carving competition.

20th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous carvers

Stump 1 — Nate Hall, 1st year

Stump 2 — Matt Ounsworth, 5th year

Stump 3 — Jim Valentine, 5th year

Stump 4 — Damon Gorecki, 7th year

Stump 5 — Justine Park, 2nd year

Stump 6 — Joe Srholez, 3rd year

Stump 7 — Chad Stratton, 14th year

Stump 8 — Bongo Love, 12th year

Stump 9 — Robert Lyon, 4th year

Stump 10 — Robert Waits, 15th year

Stump 11 — Fernando Dulnuan, 1st year

Stump 12 — Ken Braun, 7th year

Pike laid out the rules quickly. He pointed out carvers can use chainsaws or other power tools to carve their stumps, which can be laid down if the artist desires. Carvers got first pick of their stumps by drawing from a playing card lottery. Carvers must be done with their works of art by 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

Pike named some of Craig’s most iconic wood sculptures and their makers from past years — Damon Gorecki’s “Freedom” in front of the Center of Craig, Joe Srholez’s “Phoenix Rising” at the Moffat County Courthouse, and many others the city plans to mount around the city in the coming weeks and months.

“I think the first year we only had six or seven carvers,” Pike said.

But those humble beginnings have bred one of Colorado’s premier wood carving events.

Pike was sure to thank several sponsors of this year’s event, including Memorial Regional Health, Trapper Mine, KRAI 55 Country, and the Local Marketing District. 

“The competition level is just way up here now,” Pike said. “It’s drastic compared to what we were 20 years ago … Now these guys are really good.”

The event has changed lives for the better. Bongo Love, who is on his 12th year at Whittle the Wood, got his professional start at Craig’s annual event.

“It changed his life,” Pike said. “Now he does it for a living. He got his start out here years ago.”

Robert Waits is on his 15th year at Whittle the Wood. If you haven’t met him, you’ve probably met his art around Craig. Waits said wildlife is a great way to wow the judges and win at Whittle the Wood.

“The only way you really win here is wildlife,” Waits said. “…I won with frogs, owls, ravens,” Waits said. “One year I lost a really cool carving to some rams.”

Waits’ hippie in Craig City Park was recently vandalized in a criminal mischief incident. The smiling hippie’s arm extending upward with a two-fingered peace sign atop the hand was sawed off at the shoulder some time after Craig’s last snow. Craig police said they have no suspects.

A jovial Waits took the defacing in stride, as a compliment. 

“It happens,” Waits said. “…If they like it enough to steal it, you can look at it as a compliment.”

20th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous schedule

Wednesday, June 12
9 a.m. Stump selection and carving until dusk

Thursday, June 13
9 a.m. Carving until dusk

Friday, June 14
9 a.m. Carving until dusk
4:30 p.m. Live music by Black Mountain Riot
5:30 p.m. Bear River Young Life Barbecue and Classic Car Cruise at Yampa Valley Bank
6:30 p.m. Live music by The Movers & Shakers

Saturday, June 15
8 a.m. Friends of Moffat County Education Wake the Whittler 5K and Family Fun Run
9 a.m. Carving
10 a.m. Beer garden, arts and crafts and food vendors
10 a.m. Shuttles begin
10 a.m. Bear River Young Life Classic Car Show in downtown Craig
1 p.m. Quick Carve Competition
1 to 4 p.m.  Thunder Rolls Cornhole Tournament
3 p.m. Live music by Tylor & The Train Robbers
3 p.m. Carving competition judging
5 p.m. Carving competition winners announced
5:30 p.m. Live music by Leftover Salmon
8 p.m. Last shuttle

— All events at Loudy-Simpson Park unless otherwise noted. Admission free Friday. Saturday tickets $5 in advance, $10 at the gate for adults. Free to ages 12 and younger. For more information, visit whittlethewood.com.