Whittle the Wood still a hit after 15 years | CraigDailyPress.com

Whittle the Wood still a hit after 15 years

The crowd gathers around the stage to the sounds of Atlanta Rhythm Section during the 15th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous Saturday at Loudy-Simpson Park. The event saw thousands in attendance to see the live music of three bands throughout the day as well as to see which of the dozen carvers set up in the park had won, the top finisher being Ron Eye, of Vernal, Utah.

The phrase "birds of a feather" was applicable in a lot of ways for Craig's biggest event this weekend. On one hand, an avian theme was unavoidable for a certain contest happening, but in another regard, residents certainly wanted to flock together by the thousands to catch the action.

15th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous award winners

1st place: Ron Eye, “Refuge”

2nd place: Bongo Love, “Pelican’s Chum”

3rd place: Damon Gorecki, “Mind Warp”

People’s Choice: Jesse Beeson, “Above the Storm”

Carvers' Choice: Tie — Robert Waits, “Victory!”; Chad Stratton, “Release the Kraken”

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— For a video of the announcement of the winners, visit facebook.com/CraigDailyPress.

The turnout was considerable for Saturday's 15th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous at Loudy-Simpson Park as gray skies early in the day cleared up by the afternoon.

"We got lucky again," Craig Parks and Recreation Director Dave Pike said about the weather.

Midway through the event, a count of about 4,000 people was made, with hundreds more pouring in for the final hours of the Rendezvous, hoping to catch the announcement of which of the participating carvers would be receiving the honors.

Ron Eye, of Vernal, Utah, was the overall winner for the second consecutive year, this time for his piece, "Refuge," a bench with the features of an eagle. Accepting the award, Eye thanked all his colleagues as well as the divine entity he said was responsible for all the work of the day.

"Talent is God-given," he said.

Bongo Love, of Lafayette, placed second for "Pelican's Chum," followed by first-timer Damon Gorecki, of Roosevelt, Utah, for "Mind Warp."

Another carver new to Craig, Jesse Beeson, of Gainesboro, Tennessee, took home the People's Choice prize for the aquiline "Above the Storm." Sharing Carvers' Choice were Robert Waits, of Diamond Springs, California, and Chad Stratton, of South Jordan, Utah.

Pike said the scoring was painfully close but also led to more carvers being acknowledged at the end.

"It was great that we could give them out to six people," he said.

Even for those who didn't walk away with accolades, the experience was worth the effort. Jon Parker, of Manitou Springs, said he was able to sell off his piece in the Quick Carve Competition, a small bear, for nearly four times his usual price.

Likewise, Matt Holmes, of Santa Cruz, California, said he was only concerned with having a good time after finishing his elk statue.

"It's a great family weekend," he said.

The same was true for spectators. Friends Ashley Pacot and Nick Augustine said their favorite part of the event is catching up with acquaintances while marveling at the sculptures.

"I can't believe it went from being a chunk of wood to that," Pacot said, motioning to the row of new works.

Capping off the day was the performance by rock band Atlanta Rhythm Section, following SandRock Sound and Tuscan Road earlier in the day. The longtime establishment of Southern rock took little time to get the audience out of a seated position and up on their feet surrounding the stage.

Vocalist Rodney Justo said he was pleased to see everyone's energy keep rising a few songs into the concert, an indicator of a line from the band's own "Imaginary Lover" — "satisfaction guaranteed."

"It was a fun show," he said. "I don't mean to sound arrogant, but we seldom have a show that doesn't go well. We've got it down, we know the highs and the lows to keep it interesting."

Craig's Cody and Gina Duran were the first in the crowd to start dancing, but they were far from the last. Besides being big fans of ARS, the two said it was hard not to be in the mood to celebrate during Whittle the Wood.

"It's the best time of the year," Gina said.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

15th annual Whittle the Wood Rendezvous award winners

1st place: Ron Eye, “Refuge”

2nd place: Bongo Love, “Pelican’s Chum”

3rd place: Damon Gorecki, “Mind Warp”

People’s Choice: Jesse Beeson, “Above the Storm”

Carvers’ Choice: Tie — Robert Waits, “Victory!”; Chad Stratton, “Release the Kraken”

— For a video of the announcement of the winners, visit facebook.com/CraigDailyPress.