Visual wonders abound in Craig with new wooden artworks |

Visual wonders abound in Craig with new wooden artworks

Whittle the Wood places latest carvings in town; event organizers plan new online presence

Troy Hampton faces off with the wooden dragon sculpture recently installed in front of Craig Fire/Rescue. "A Dragon's Tale" and 10 other carving entries from the 17th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous to be placed in town.
Andy Bockelman

It happens each summer as artistic expressions, flights of fancy or nature lookalikes come to tangible form as part of Craig’s Whittle the Wood Rendezvous, but it’s what happens afterward that show why the event has the staying power it does.

The carving entries from the 17th annual Whittle the Wood were recently posted in locations around town, a process that involves a certain amount of planning from City of Craig.

While many of the artworks might fetch a pretty penny selling to a party outside the area, organizers prefer to keep them within Northwest Colorado, preferably in spots that will be highly visible.

“We’ve been asked why we don’t sell them to help fund the event, but we feel like if we do, they’ll be at somebody’s cabin or house and never be seen again,” said Dave Pike, organizer for Whittle the Wood.

The following is a list of the newly installed pieces and their sites:

• “The Friendly Bears” — The Memorial Hospital

• “Lakeside Dreams” — McDonald’s

• “Papi Love” — Clarion Inn & Suites lobby

• “Flushed” — Craig Trap Club

• “A Dragon’s Tale” — Craig Fire/Rescue

• “My Mind” — Breeze Street Park

• “The Magician” — City of Craig Maintenance Shop

• “When Pigs Fly” — JW Snack’s Bar & Grill

• “Never More” — Craig City Hall

• “Oblivious” — Severson Supply and Rental

• “Learning to Howl” — Marcia Car

Fire/Rescue Battalion Chief Troy Hampton and the department’s administrative assistant, Tonya Mercer, were instrumental in bringing the dragon sculpture to the site, fitting with the brigade’s draconian logo, though the mythical beast carved by Chad Stratton has yet to breathe flames.

Still, it has turned the building into a hotspot for passersby.

“It seems like there’s somebody out there every day getting out of their car, standing by it and taking a picture with it,” Hampton laughed. “It’s been a big, big hit.”

A theme matched with an appropriate business or organization is a goal, which explains the placement of “Flushed,” a group of pheasants in flight on the grounds of the shotgun club or “When Pigs Fly” at JW Snack’s, which has more than one pork item on the menu.

Even if there is no connection between the content and its location, it still provides visual flair, Pike said.

“Next year we’re wanting to put some on the west end of town by Murdoch’s to kind of spruce up that corner,” he said.

In previous years, the list of carvings around town was compiled as part of the promotion for Whittle the Wood, though the brochures have not been updated in some time. A 2012 pamphlet listed 99 carvings across Craig, as well as spots in Dinosaur and Hayden, and the number has only grown since then.

Pike said a project is in the works to have a full online compilation of the carving locations for tourists and locals alike to have a checklist to see the sights. A prior site had difficulty maintaining compatibility with Google Earth, and the event is currently promoted through Moffat County Tourism Association.

A new domain is on the way as something that will keep Whittle connected through multiple agencies, including MCTA and Craig Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re hoping to have a whole new website this winter to have something like it used to be,” Pike said.

Chamber Executive Director Christina Oxley noted that having a revamped print copy along with the digital material would be beneficial.

“Just for our services, I’d prefer a printed product, because a lot of that is a walking tour, and people want to see the groupings, and cell phone service isn’t always 100 percent,” she said.

With entries from years past surrounding her office — as well as an abundance across the street at Veterans Memorial Park and the adjoining Craig City Park that is a huge tourist draw — Oxley said she always enjoys seeing the variety of odds and ends throughout Craig that adds to its uniqueness the entire year rather than just a few days in June.

“It’s such a popular feature for us, such a visitor-ready attraction with a great back story and the fact that you can see these carvings anywhere you go,” she said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or

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