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Rendezvous reaches No. 13

January 22, 2012

File photo by Joseph Bell – Jon Mykkanen of Michigan cuts wood last year at the Ridgway Chainsaw Carver Rendezvous.

Organizers are preparing for what will be the 13th installment of the Ridgway Chainsaw Carvers Rendezvous scheduled for Feb. 18-25 in downtown Ridgway.
"We're excited because it's coming fast and we're excited about the new location," said Zoe Boni, daughter of Rendezvous founders Rick and Liz Boni.
Formerly held at the former Motion Control grounds in Ridgway at the foot of Montmorenci Road, the event has since moved to the downtown area, from South Broad Street to its intersection with Main Street and Center Street, and Center Street to its intersection with Mill Street; Court Street also will be closed off for the weeklong affair.
"Every year it grows and gets better, and I think the carving this year will be phenomenal because everyone will be doing their absolute very best in hopes of being chosen to go on TV," said Liz Boni, co-founder of the event and of Appalachian Arts Studio. "It's definitely a challenge for the carvers this year, as well as a challenge for us with our new location. We're very excited that it's downtown and we think it's going to be a beautiful backdrop for the event itself."
The original plan called for the event to be held on Main Street, but unforeseen issues prevented the street from being closed off; instead, event organizers targeted streets one block away from the main drag.
"We're thankful to our borough council and Main Street Manager Michelle Bogacki for helping us secure this location, and believing in what we're doing for our community," Liz said.
However, with the new location, challenges are in abundance and differences will be evident.
"The auction will be outside again, but we're having tents donated to us by Tent Express, and we're not quite sure definitely how this setup is going to look just yet," Liz said. "We're still working on the complexities of it all. We're hoping that this will be enough room and since carvers do this for a living, we're confident they will make it work."
Space constraints also have proven tricky.
"Unfortunately the carvers can't bring huge trailers and things like they used to, there just isn't enough room," Liz said. "That's a little scary too. We'll have the parking lot behind the old Ridgway Record office [across from Rite Aid] to help with that."
Transporting international carvers used to be difficult in the past, but Ridgway mayor Dr. Guillermo Udarbe helped provide a solution.
"Dr. Udarbe has been wonderful and since he's been remodeling the Masonic Temple, he's having some rooms there for the internationals to stay," Zoe said. "Usually every year we're running the international carvers around all day long and we have to hire people to run them around, but everything will be contained to downtown.
"We're going to do the seminars in the Masonic Temple so once you get here and get set up, you don't have to move."
Seminars will still be held Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to noon, but rather than hold the sessions at Appalachian Arts Studio, they instead will be featured at the Masonic Temple.
Space will be available at the old Ridgway Record office across from Rite Aid for carvers' trailers and vehicles as needed.
With 172 carvers signed up as of Sunday night, the mother-daughter tandem agreed that the most problematic aspect of the event is "getting it paid for."
"It would really help if it was paid up-front and we do have to have an auction to help pay for everything pretty much," Zoe said. "A lot of people have stepped up to the plate to help with cleanup. We've had an excellent response from the community to help and that's good because this event is so different in the world. It's not something that you're going to go just anywhere and see.
"You might see a group of 12 to 20 carvers somewhere but you're never going to see 200 in one place at one time in a non-competitive environment where they can stop and talk to you. We create something that is fun for them and they look forward to it all year even though they're freezing cold."
With no reliable way to collect a gate fee for the event since there will be multiple entry potions because the location is on borough roads, organizers are already missing out on an average of $12,000.
"The auction usually brings in anywhere from $37,000 to $43,000," Liz said. "Between the grounds crew, food and lodging, the event usually costs anywhere from $55,000 to $60,000 each year.
"We get the bare minimum of shirts and things like that. When the event was only three days, it made money-- but now we're taking care of 200 people for an entire week."
Interested individuals may visit http://chainsawrendezvous.org/ to help support the Rendezvous or register to be a carver.

Pick up a copy of the Monday, Jan. 23, 2012 edition of The Ridgway Record for more.

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