The Chetwynd International Chainsaw Carving Competition is celebrating its 15th edition June 6 to 9.
It all started when Helene Weightman, then-new executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, noted a need for a tourist attraction.
“It was to create a tourism event that enhanced the tourism attraction,” Weightman shares.
The town had some wood carvings done for Rendezvous 92 — part of celebrations of the Alaska Highway’s 50th anniversary — including the “Welcome to Chetwynd” sign. People and businesses alike fundraised to bring carvings to Chetwynd.
However, many of these carvings were privately owned, and left when businesses did.
“So we were running this visitor information centre, and I had all of these people coming asking to view and look at the chainsaw carvings, and it’s starting to get a little bit embarrassing, because there weren’t a whole lot around anymore,” says Weightman.
“My staff and I were brainstorming one day, and I was like what’s the quickest, cheapest way we can get more carvings into town, because obviously people want to come here and see them.”
That first year, there were just seven carvers, including local Ken Sheen, who gave a lot of pointers on how to run the competition and an ear to the carvers.
“Carvers were complaining that people were asking them to come carve for free, and the only money they made is if they sold off their carvings,” Weightman says.
Another idea was to do just one quick carve. A lot of competitions Weightman observed did quick carves at the end of the day, but in Chetwynd, it’s only done after the regular competition on Sunday, and before the judging is done.
So they paid the carvers, and in return, the District keeps the carvings.
Weightman ran it from 2005 to 2010, when Tonia Richter took over as executive director of the Chamber, where she ran it until 2016. (Richter came on board with the Visitor Centre in 2008, and learned under Weightman). This is the third year the Society has run it. And it’s still going as strong as ever.
“We’re really excited for another year.”
“We didn’t want to mess too much with what works and being that we are only three years in as a society, we didn’t want to rock the boat too much,” he shares. “At the end of the day, we’re just happy putting on another amazing event.”
Twelve carvers are on the list — Roderick Brown, Griffon Ramsey, Takao Hayashi, Marina Cole, Jacob Lucas, Valerij Kunigel, Ryan Villiers, Brandon Kroon, Chris Foltz, Sander Boom, Levi Caya, and Ryan Anderson.
The 15th annual Chetwynd International Chainsaw Carving Championship goes June 6 to 9.