Big-time turnout for Big Head Todd and the Monsters at Craig’s Whittle the Wood
The level of excitement Saturday at Loudy-Simpson Park might have given some musicians a big head. Luckily, that was a moot point with the headliner in question.
Crowds came out by the thousands for the final concert of the 19th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous, the conclusion to the yearly celebration of woodcarving, live music and more that makes up Craig’s biggest event of the summer.
Headlining group Big Head Todd and the Monsters attracted spectators from the local level and beyond.
Denver’s Laura Peck traveled to Craig to catch the show by the Colorado native band, taking in the sights of the one-of-a-kind wooden works before performers hit the stage.
“I love the small-town feel, it’s not all loud and crazy like Denver,” she said. “I didn’t even know about the festival until I got here, but it’s awesome.”
The Movers & Shakers, also from the Front Range, brought their brass-heavy sound to the park earlier in the afternoon, fresh off a Friday night set at JW Snack’s as part of the restaurant’s Summer Concert Series.
A sizable crowd for the openers only got larger once the final set began.
Big Head Todd — the stage name for frontman Todd Park Mohr — and crew have origins dating back to the Colorado music scene since the 1980s, boasting a wide repertoire with hits and live favorites such as “Bittersweet,” “Resignation Superman,” “Circle” and “Please Don’t Tell,” also working in some covers. The group released the album “New World Arisin'” in 2017 and the weekend before took the stage at Red Rocks Amphitheatre.
Rifle’s Dino Baldizan and his wife Carmen were among those who spent most of the show right at the edge of the stage.
“I do some part-time DJ’ing for a little radio station out of Carbondale, so I’m pretty familiar with their music,” Dino said. “It’s great to see them up this close.”
Craig Parks and Recreation director Dave Pike said the energy of the day was one of the best in recent years for Whittle the Wood.
“Every year I’m nervous all day Saturday until things get going and the band starts playing I start feeling pretty good,” he said.
Early numbers regarding turnout for the final day indicated a spike in attendance, between 3,000 and 3,500 for Saturday compared to about 2,000 people in 2017.
Total admissions brought in $19,700, while advance ticket sales in particular saw a boost — more than 1,900 were sold leading up to the show compared to 200 last year.
City Councilor Andrea Camp said she was impressed with the crowd size as she walked through row after row of spectators to get to her seat. With the event in its third year charging admission for the final day — after being completely free for its first 16 years — Camp said the issue of funding has been prevalent, though ensuring people get bang for their buck is key.
Among the big changes this year was securing $10,000 in funds from Moffat County Local Marketing District.
“I think this year, just getting a bigger headliner makes it so more people want to come and support it,” she said. “It’s such a great event, and I hope people are always willing to come out for it. Just seeing those carvings from start to finish is so fun.”
Even a burst of wet weather couldn’t dampen the day. Despite some sprinkles of rain in the afternoon after threatening to pour all afternoon, the precipitation was hardly a deterrent.
As he segued between songs, Big Head Todd hinted to the crowd he’d be up for a return trip to Craig.
“Y’all are gonna have to put some pressure on the management to have us back,” he said.
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When you hear an unholy shriek or a cacophony of chest-pounding hundreds of feet high, you know you’re about to see something fantastic.