It’s a hot and dry mid-August afternoon in east-central Saskatchewan.
The normally quaint and quiet resort village of Manitou Beach is now filled with the sounds of buzzing and whirring while sawdust shavings fly.
The chainsaw carving festival has returned.
A favourite event of the locals, the Manitou Beach Chainsaw Carving Festival takes place once every two years in the village just over 120 kilometres east of Saskatoon.
And this year’s festival, maybe even more so than years past, has the community buzzing.
“It is the biggest event that we put on in this area,” festival co-ordinator Vicki Clarke said. “It is Saskatchewan’s only chainsaw carving festival, that’s the exciting part. Everybody’s been talking about it for the last six months, and now that it’s on, everybody is just so excited.”
In a regular year, this competition brings in world-renowned professionals from all across North America, but amid the pandemic, applicants were limited to just Ontario and western Canada.
“We only had 10 spots (available for competitors),” Clarke said. “We actually had 19 carvers apply, so we had to turn down some fantastic carvers.”
The competition began on Aug. 12 and takes place over three-and-a-half days. Competitors carve from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, while the competition closes Sunday at noon.
Over the course of the weekend, carvers must complete two quick carves, a 90-minute timed carve of a two- to four-foot stump and one large carve. The large logs are sized anywhere from eight to 12 feet, taking 25 to 30 hours.
One of the 10 competitors featured in the festival is a former champion, Marina Cole.
Cole has been professionally carving for five-and-a-half years, and was initially drawn to the craft by her love and passion for artwork.
“Just (to) pursue something that you never thought would be worth pursuing,” Cole said. “Who knew that chainsaw art would lead me here to where I am today.”
This is the first competition that Cole has participated in since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, something that she had truly missed over the course of the pandemic.
“It’s amazing, I think that the people (in competition) bring something different to it, it inspires you a little bit,” she said. “And, you never know who you might inspire, and maybe, possibly, get someone who hasn’t to pick up a chainsaw.”
Another former champion, and 12-year carving veteran, Mike Winia, also credits his introduction to carving to his love of artwork, although his initial foray into the craft came through time spent at home with his three younger children, while his wife was taking his oldest daughter to the hospital for cancer treatments.
“I told her before she left that I was going to do a chainsaw carving of a grizzly bear,” he said. “When she came home that day I had this grizzly bear sitting in the front with its ears tipped back, looking all cute and cuddly, and when she came in she was amazed that I did that.”
Now, whenever he completes a piece, whether at home or in a competition, he just wants it to be something that his four children can look back at and be proud of.
“What I’m leaving behind is going to be great for my family,” he said. “My kids are going to have monuments, and places to go that’ll bring memories.”