Carvers get started at Whittle the Wood | CraigDailyPress.com

Carvers get started at Whittle the Wood

Nate Waggenspack

Robert Waits (right), Jessie Beeson (center) and Patrick Armstrong start carving their tree trunks Wednesday morning at Loudy-Simpson Park. The 15th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous is underway, with 12 carvers from five states participating in the competition this year.

Tree trunks began their transformation process Wednesday morning as the 15th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous carving competition began at Loudy-Simpson Park.

Twelve carvers from five different states are in the Craig competition this year, many of them familiar faces now at the four-day long event, which will include music, vendors and other activities as the weekend arrives.

Defending champion carver Ron Eye, of Vernal, Utah, is back for his sixth Whittle the Wood, as is last year's runner-up and 2012 champion, Bongo Love.

Love, of Lafayette, wants to reclaim his spot at the top.

"The king is coming back," he said. "I'm not happy (about losing last year). I ran out of time and it takes me a while to get over those losses."

It's Love's seventh Whittle the Wood, after he came to Craig with no carving experience the first time.

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"Whittle the Wood is part of me," he said. "If I didn't come here, I wouldn't be a carver. So I have lots of appreciation for this contest and the people of Craig."

Other veterans of the competition are in Craig as well. Chad Stratton has been in Whittle the Wood nine times, while Robert Waits is at his 11th competition and Faye Braaten, the Chainsaw Mama, is making it to her 14th out of 15.

Braaten's daughter Nicole is also carving this year, her first at Whittle the Wood. Nicole is one of three first-time participants, along with Doman Gorecki from Roosevelt, Utah and Jesse Beeson of Gainesboro, Tennessee.

"I had a friend call me and he said there were three competitions out here around the same time," Beeson said of coming to Craig for the first time all the way from Tennesee. "Normally I do wholesale, and I was getting burnt out on that, so pretty much this is a vacation. Who wouldn't want to come out to Colorado and carve?"

Beeson is not the only one to make a lengthy trip. Ted Scherer of Columbus, Ohio, was at Whittle the Wood in 2012 and is back for his second competition. He is joined by second-time contestants Matt Holmes and Patrick Armstrong. Jon Parker rounded out this year's field, coming to Craig for the fourth time.

Carvers held the lottery to pick their trunks Wednesday morning and began with initial cuts soon after. Beeson drew the first pick and selected the largest trunk of the bunch. He was planning on carving two eagles in flight, he said.

"I might have to adjust, because I haven't looked too closely at my trunk yet, but usually when I get my mind set on something, I'll make it happen," he said.

Contact Nate Waggenspack at 970-875-1795 or nwaggenspack@craigdailypress.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CDP_Sports .