The streets of Libby, Montana, will be louder than usual during the second weekend of September as chainsaws fire up and beautiful works of art will be revealed right before your eyes. The third annual Kootenai Country Montana International Chainsaw Carving Championship kicks off on Thursday, September 13, with all kinds of demonstrations and competitions throughout the weekend.
“What could possibly be more distinctly Montana than chainsaw art,” said Paul Bunn, the local resident who came up with the idea. “And what could be better than bringing the very best in the world to the world’s most beautiful place for a live carving championship?”
Now in its third year, the event continues to draw in professionals from around the globe and many additional visitors to the far reaches of Northwest Montana.
“This is one of the most majestic outdoor recreation areas in the country, and encouraging people to visit for events like these is a sure way to make them want to come back and see more,” said Kootenai Country Montana Executive Director Troy Douthit.
Organizers say they knew right away they had a world-class event and brought in some of the finest chainsaw carvers from around the globe competing for one of the richest prize purses anywhere.
This year you will see artists coming from across the United States, as well as eight other countries including Zimbabwe, Ireland, Canada, Argentina, Slovakia, Moldova, Australia and the UK. There will be two types of competition during the event. The masterpiece carvings, which will be completed over the course of four days, consist of an 8-foot pine log being transformed into anything the artists can imagine. The second competition is known as a quick carve. Every day, the carvers take an hour and 15-minute break and carve one of these smaller pieces from local Lincoln County Cedar provided by Stimson Lumber. All of these pieces, including the masterpieces, will be available for purchase at the auctions on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. There are several awards the carvers are competing for: 1st, 2nd and 3rd overall awarded by a panel of five judges; People’s Choice, voted on by the attendees; and Quick Carve Champion, awarded to the carver with the highest auction total.
One of the greatest things about this championship is it takes place right on Mineral Avenue in Downtown Libby. “The carvers will be separated from the public by safety fencing, but for all intents and purposes, the event itself is a four-day long interactive demonstration,” said Troy. The public can watch the entire transformation process up close as the artists turn their raw materials into fine art. Carvers always love to talk to the public, share their stories, their inspirations and their love of art.
Admission is free during the entire competition, so bring your friends and families, but leave your pets at home. There are no dogs allowed during the competition due to noise and crowds. Be aware that chainsaws will be running nearly continuously, so it will be very noisy the closer you get to the event. Ear protection is strongly recommended, and if you don’t have ear protection, there will be some available for purchase at the information booth, as well as T-shirts and free programs.
As a bonus this year, the International Chainsaw Carving Championship will coincide with Libby’s Nordicfest Heritage Festival, put on by the Sons of Norway. This event runs Friday through Sunday and has a little bit of everything. The Craft Show at the Memorial Center is always a festival favorite. Dozens of regional crafters display their unique pieces, many of which are entered into competition in various categories. Food booths are open during the festivities so you can try some traditional Scandinavian dishes. There is also a Swedish Meatball Dinner Saturday night and a Swedish Pancake Breakfast Sunday morning. The parade marches through town on Saturday morning, and there will be all sorts of live music and entertainment each afternoon. Kids’ activities are also available, and you can check the schedule of events by visiting LibbyNordicfest.com.
And if two events weren’t enough for one weekend, why not three? The fifth annual Kootenai Harvest Festival will also be taking place on Saturday from noon to 6pm. Not only can you dance to your favorite local bands and shop with local vendors for handmade crafts and homegrown food, but you can enjoy a delicious garden-to-table dinner grown in the Libby Community Garden and prepared by Gracious Table. Kids will have fun in the candy straw pit, face painting, tug-o-war, hopping all over with sack races and more activities throughout the day! Enjoy shopping with more than 30 local vendors at the farmers market while the kids play.
Don’t forget that back at the Chainsaw Carving Championships, many pieces will be up for auction. These will be heavy, so don’t forget the truck or trailer if you want to bring a piece home.
Libby has a lot to celebrate, and you can get the full gamut during this exciting weekend. Stop by for great food and drink, family fun, incredible art and a true Western Montana experience.