Whittle the Wood sees plentiful crowds for big return of favorite summer event | CraigDailyPress.com

Whittle the Wood sees plentiful crowds for big return of favorite summer event

Andy Bockelman
For the Craig Press
Matt Ounsworth's carving 'Moose on the Loose' stands at Loudy-Simpson Park Saturday with a Craig crowd cheering on The Verve Pipe in the background.
Andy Bockelman / For the Craig Press

One year after being completely off the calendar, Whittle the Wood Rendezvous made its triumphant return with thousands of people flocking to Loudy-Simpson Park for the mix of artistic woodcarvings, bombastic music and the sense of community that is Craig’s biggest summertime event.

People of all ages made their way among the woodworks in progress Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, as well as the many crafts vendors who were set up selling everything from homemade jewelry to toys to wooden birdhouses.

The carvers who were at the heart of the event also cleaned up as spectators picked up plentiful specialty wooden art items.

Fans dance while Everclear plays Saturday night at Loudy-Simpson Park.
Andy Bockelman / For the Craig Press

Nancy Bauman bought an owl carving from carver Damon Gorecki, the eventual winner of the carving contest.

“The detail that he put into it, I think all these things are amazing,” she said. “It is wonderful to have this again after last year is wonderful and to have everybody out here with a smile on their face.”

The Tubbins family wound up with a bear carving courtesy of Bongo Love.

Carver Bongo Love poses with his carving, "Serenity," at Whittle the Wood Saturday.
Andy Bockelman / For the Craig Press

“He was just a nice guy and asked our daughter which one she liked and gave it to her,” David Tubbins said. “We might send it to my mother-in-law. She really likes bears. All these carvings are really cool.”

Many enjoyed plenty of good sights without opening their wallets, including Hayden’s Erin and Andy Wallace.

“I lived in Craig before, so I love Whittle the Wood, I always really enjoy it,” Erin said.

Heather Graham and her children came from Hot Springs, Arkansas, to visit family and found themselves at the event.

Compared to Midwestern heat and humidity in summertime, Graham said the cool conditions during the week were amazing.

“I would take this over the hot stuff we have,” she said.

Graham especially loved Matt Ounsworth’s “Moose on the Loose” carving.

Matt Ounsworth poses with his carving, "Moose on the Loose," for which he won third place in the Whittle the Wood competition Saturday.
Andy Bockelman / for the Craig Press

“We lived in Idaho for a while, and my husband was big on moose hunting, so that’s the one I’m drawn to most, I would say,” she said. “I grew up here, and I don’t think I ever saw a moose.”

Carvers also put on a show Saturday with the Quick Carve Competition originally scheduled for earlier in the week, leading up to the announcement of the winners.

Friday night saw the start of live music with performances by Williams Brothers Band and Robert Randolph Band, while local act Black Mountain Riot got the crowd ready Saturday for the big name acts to come, a double dose of 1990s alternative rock.

The Verve Pipe took the stage Saturday with a mix of original songs and covers, as well as their signature song, “The Freshmen.”

The Verve Pipe, featuring (left to right) Brian Vander Ark, Channing Lee and Lou Musa, performs Saturday at the Whittle the Wood concert.
Andy Bockelman / For the Craig Press

Guitarist Lou Musa said the group, first formed nearly 30 years ago, was eager to get back into the swing of things after the COVID pandemic.

And, while Whittle the Wood was hardly their first time back on stage since early 2020, it was their first festival.

“Last year we had about 40-plus shows scheduled before the shutdown, and we did about five,” he said. “It’s a beautiful area here. We’ve been to Grand Junction and Denver a few times, but never up here. We’d love to come back.”

By sundown, the crowd was ready for the headliner, and Everclear cranked up the volume to bring new songs as well as ‘90s hits like “Father of Mine,” “I Will Buy You a New Life,” and “Santa Monica,” to name a few.

Everclear frontman Art Alexakis sings during his band's concert Saturday at Loudy-Simpson Park as part of Whittle the Wood festivities.
Andy Bockelman / For the Craig Press

The group notably had a travel delay that kept them in Denver for longer than they planned, though frontman and founder Art Alexakis told the crowd they weren’t about to miss the show.

“Look at where we are; we’re in God’s country,” he told the cheering throngs. “We’re blessed to be able to play for you. Thank you guys so much for being here for us.”

The crowd cheers on Everclear during the Saturday night concert at Whittle the Wood at Loudy-Simpson Park.
Andy Bockelman / For the Craig Press

Getting everything organized a year after being shut down was a tall order for Craig Parks and Recreation director Ryan Dennison, which also involved spreading the happenings throughout the park more, allowing for better acoustics during the concerts.

“Our team brainstormed throughout the planning stages,” Dennison said. “With the new shelter out at Loudy and new configuration in the park, we really didn’t know what to expect coming into the summer. We tried to come up with a layout for the event that made sense and was practical.”

Dennison surmised the now 21-year-old event’s first year under his purview was nearly back to its former glory.

“It’s sure a lot of fun to provide this type of event for our community,” he said. “The event has a great energy and history behind it. I really appreciate the staff and volunteers and all their dedication and time they put into it to make it a success.”

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