Progress Days a big hit on Sunday

Many gather to cheer on Saw Fest and Rodeo

The sweet smell of fresh-cut wood filled the air Sunday as the 7th annual Saw Fest and the Soldotna Progress Days festivities wound down. The sun beat down on the competitors as four men and one woman constructed totem poles from 12-foot tall logs.


Scott Hanson, carver and owner of Town of Living Trees Inc. at Mile 91.5 of the Sterling Highway, said he has held a Saw Fest competition at his business for the past six years, but this year the chamber wanted to incorporate it into Progress Days events.

The five carvers were given four days to complete the project, with two one-hour quick carve events held during the weekend.

Area carver Derrick Stanton took a break Sunday from his carving to visit with onlookers. Stanton said the idea for his totem came to him at 2 a.m. Thursday morning. He and the other carvers began work on the logs Thursday afternoon at the Little League ball fields on Kalifornsky Beach Road.

With summer months being the peak work season for area carvers, Stanton said the competition was a nice break.

“It is nice to take some time out,” Stanton said. “It has been a blast.”

Cheryl and Dean Heffner, of Pendleton, Ore. looked on as the totems came to life. The couple, on an extended vacation in Alaska, attended the Progress Days events and said they came back on Sunday to see the finished works.

“I think it is really nice. The totem poles are really great,” Cheryl said.”They are all unique in their own way.”

While the crowd watched on with wonder, the carvers used paint, stain and wood buring tools to add detail and depth to their creations.

Area resident Matthew York also watched the carvers as his son, Zury, 2, was perched on his shoulders. York and his wife, Melissa, have lived in Kenai for more than ten years. He said he enjoys bringing his family to the events to celebrate Soldotna’s progress.

“It’s about moving forward and everyone being happy,” he said.

Sharon Endsley said she likes to attend the Progress Days festivies each year.

“It is fun. I like to see the booths and the local talents,” she said,

Endsley said she has lived in Soldotna for about 12 years, returning after five years at college.

“There was a lot of change (in Soldotna),” she said.

“When I left for college there was one stoplight,” she said with a smile. “I came back to many.”

Across the parking lot, away from the roar of chainsaws, the dust was flying as the Tough Enough to Wear Pink Rodeo, sponsored by the Soldotna Equestrian Association, was in progress.

Chris Sorrels, with the association, said more than 70 participants were entered in this year’s rodeo, which is the largest event for the group.

Sorrels said that proceeds from the rodeo will go to the support breast cancer research through the Kenai Peninsula Health Foundation, keeping all donations in the community.

“We can touch more people with this show,” Sorrels said.

The rodeo included bull riding, ribbon roping, team roping with participants of all ages.

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