Nine chainsaw artists sharpened their blades and imaginations last week to compete in Saw Fest 2009, the third annual invitation chainsaw carving contest held at the Town of Living Trees in Soldotna. Internationally renowned carver Scott Hanson started the four day festival in 2007 but until this year had been unable to place at his own contest, "The competition is steep and I was very pleased to get second this year, but while we are all competitive we are also good friends and help each other to do our best on each piece so in a way we all share in the winning and most of all in the pleasure the pieces bring to our visitors," said Hanson. Judging this year's event were a group of businessmen that included Soldotna Mayor Peter Micciche and Kenaitze tribe member and recording artist Bunny Swan. "This was my first time as a judge and it was tough because I truly liked them all, there was some real talent represented here today," said Micciche. Taking 1st Place honors from the judges as well as the "Peoples Choice" was the masterpiece created by Derrick Stanton called "Giddy-up" which depicted a cowboy riding a king salmon. In third place was the carving by Eric Berson called "Sly Fishing" with foxes watching an eagle soar with a fish in its talons.
As a tribute to U.S. Veterans this year the competing carvers all joined together to create a special piece featuring symbols of all branches of military service. "We each put our own special touch into this piece and it really turned out great, we're happy that the funds raised from it will go to helping our Vets and getting some of the men and women down here fishing on the Kenai," said Hanson. Raffle tickets will be available for a dollar each with the proceeds to be donated to the organizations such as the Paralyzed Veterans of America and the Outdoor Recreation Heritage Fund that sponsor fishing and hunting trips for Veterans in Alaska. For ticket outlets call Dan McDowell, The Last Frontiersman at 907-232-8057.
For the second year the Saw Fest has featured the only Scottish Highland Games on the Peninsula. Bret McDonald has coordinated the Highland Games for the last two years and says they are gaining in popularity, "We've seen interest grow among the athletes we have some new competitors this year and the spectators are increasing as well," McDonald told the Dispatch. The games originate from ancient Scottish days when they would use the tests of strength to choose the men to guard the king says McDonald, "Stones, weights and logs were their basic weapons and whoever could throw them the farthest got the honor of protecting the king." Men and women compete in the Highland Games today but the athletes are still judged on distance and weight.
Also popular at this year's festival were the new Art Gallery, Alaska's only Carousel, and Prospector John's Gold Panning, "The weather was just perfect and Scott and I were really happy that everyone, carvers, vendors, visitors, and families had a good time. We had a wonderful group of volunteers that included folks from the Soldotna Chamber, KPTMC, and Sterling Lutheran youth group. We thank everyone for making this year's Saw Fest a huge success and are already planning for next year," said Sandra Hanson. All of the masterpieces are still on display and are available for sale at the Town of Living Trees across from Harley Davidson of the Kenai Peninsula on the Sterling Highway.
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