“Watch The Chips Fly” – Another Huge Success

| September 13, 2014 | 0 Comments

by Jenny Chissus


The excitement of the competition is palpable!  The noise is something you can’t ignore – and the draw to the event site each day is something phenomenal!  To see our beautiful natural spruce logs turn into incredible masterpieces each year in the most beautifully situated community in Alaska is an experience that becomes an addiction!  If you’ve never seen a chainsaw carving competition, or been to Seldovia – you are missing out!

The Chainsaw Carving Competition is a very special Seldovia event, which not only brings a fantastic weekend of activity, excitement, art and fun to Seldovia, but adds a flavor to our town, a growing ‘outdoor museum’ of art that enriches our community that we are able to enjoy year-round!

Toby & Elaine Craft -Photo from 2007 Carving Competition - photo by Jenny Chissus

Toby & Elaine Craft -Photo from 2007 Carving Competition – photo by Jenny Chissus

This was Seldovia’s 9th Annual CICCC (Craft Invitational Chainsaw Carving Competition) which started in 2006 under the guidance and encouragement of two local carvers, Toby and Elaine Craft. (Pictured at the right)  Toby and Elaine had competed before in chainsaw carving events and thought it would be a fantastic competition to host in Seldovia.   There had always been the ice carving festival in Fairbanks, but the chainsaw carving of local spruce, this was the first of its kind in Alaska!   Tom and Mary Glover were  instrumental in gathering the committee and an amazing tradition was formed!

Master Carvers for the Craft Invitational Chainsaw Carving Competition 2014 - photo by Chris Crosta

Master Carvers for the Craft Invitational Chainsaw Carving Competition 2014 – photo by Chris Crosta

This year, along with two carvers from out-of-state, Jeff Samudosky from Gig Harbor, and Chris Foltz from North Bend Oregon, Toby and Elaine came all the way from Texas to be a part of our event as judges!  We truly appreciated the opportunity to thank them in person for this GREAT idea – and acknowledge them for being the inspiration and the namesake of our competition!  It was so good to see them again in Seldovia!  Toby generously awarded our People’s Choice Winner – Jeff Samudosky, with a pair of beautiful hand carved orcas.

There were some big changes to the competition this year!  The biggest change was the venue – as the competition site was moved from the old cannery lot across from the AMHS dock to the parking area next to our new Gateway Pavilion in the heart of town.  In spite of the noise of the saws, the committee received unanimous support for the move by the businesses and residences in the area.  This put the competition next to the harbor and right in the middle of all the action on Main Street!  It turned out to be a fabulous change, bringing more people and activity to the competition.  The second change was adding competitors from out of state.  We have always had carvers from Alaska in our competition, and it truly raised the bar for our event and brought awareness to the national chainsaw carving competitions and competitors that Seldovia is a great place to compete!

The Master Carvers for the 2014 Craft Invitational Chainsaw Carving Competition were:

Rob Younkins with the Raven God legend - how mankind received the first salmon

Rob Younkins with the Raven God legend – how mankind received the first salmon – photo by Chris Crosta

Log 1

29″ x 8’4″

Rob Younkins

Anchorage, Alaska

Rob carves with his wife as his assistant at these competitions! He is an easy-going, fun-loving, no-sweat kind of guy!  And, as you’ll note in this bio – a bit of a comedian!  Previously a landscape architect, this is his first year carving full-time, though he’s has competed in the Craft Invitational Chainsaw Carving Competition since 2010.  Rob took 3rd place in the 2013 competition with his native dancers!  He also enjoys writing, reading and doing polynomial long division.  “All of these interests help my carving technique to stay unique and imaginative.”  When his wife was in labor with their first child, she said “Hurry up, I need to get to the hospital!”  Rob replied “Just a minute, I have to finish this bear!”  He did mention that he is thinking about going “full cowboy” – boots, hat, buckle and most importantly, a sleeveless shirt!
Jeff Samudosky with his Alaskan Wildlife masterpiece - photo by Chris Crosta

Jeff Samudosky with his Alaskan Wildlife masterpiece – photo by Chris Crosta

Log 2

35″ x 8’9″

Jeff Samudosky

Gig Harbor, Washington

1st Place and People’s Choice

Originally from Connecticut, Jeff has traveled and lived in many places across the US and Canada.  He is 100% self-taught, and has been carving for over 16 years!  His company, JMS Wood Sculpture shop and gallery is located in Gig Harbor, Washington.  Jeff was featured as an animal anatomy specialist on Discovery Channel’s carving reality show – Saw Dogs!  Jeff has won the first place award at 9 competitions in the last 3 years, including Chetwynd in BC Canada, Loggerodeo in Washington and at the Husky World Cup in Germany!  He has placed 2nd or 3rd in 5 other competitions over the past 3 years!
Chris Foltz' yellow--eye fish - photo by Chris Crosta

Chris Foltz’ yellow–eye fish – photo by Chris Crosta

Log 3

31.5″ x 8’4″

Chris Foltz

North Bend, Oregon

3rd Place

Chris has been a professional Competition Power Sculptor for 5 years and holds more than 15 1st place international wins including Ice & Wood Sculpture.  Chris has been profiled on Reality TV Series Saw Dogs – on the Discovery Channel and has been the USA Team Captain at Fairbanks World Ice Art Championships since 2009.  In addition to being a Husband & Father of 3, Chris also has other endeavors, as he is an Executive Chef and Chef Instructor at Oregon Coast Culinary Institute “OCCI”.  Owner of “Divine Sculptures” Professional World Class Ice & Wood Sculptures serving the West Coast and Beyond
Ben Firth with his grand seal - photo by Chris Crosta

Ben Firth with his grand seal – photo by Chris Crosta

Log 4

35″ x 8’5″

Ben Firth

Anchor Point, Alaska

Ben Firth is an artist who works in a wide variety of mediums.  This is the 4th year he and his son Silas have competed in Seldovia.  Ben is joined by 4 of his children in Seldovia this year – Silas, Aurora, Sarah and Josiah.  Between Ben, Silas and Aurora (his daughter), there is a lot of beautiful artwork to be seen and purchased in his studio, located at mile 161 on the Sterling Highway.  Stop by and see the many artistic talents of Ben and his family!
Derrick Stanton with his Alaskan Raven -photo by Chris Crosta
Derrick Stanton with his Alaskan Raven -photo by Chris Crosta

Log 5

39″ x 7’4″

Derrick Stanton

Kenai, Alaska

2nd Place

Derrick Stanton has been carving now for eight years. He and his wife Becky along with their five kids run Derrick Stanton Log Works. This was Derrick’s sixth year carving in Seldovia. He has won once in Seldovia and twice in Saw Fest, which in held in Soldotna, Alaska. Along with his awards he has received People’s Choice twice. Derrick and his family look forward to coming down to carve in the Seldovia competition every year.

With the competition this year, we have almost 50 carvings in our community, representing 9 years of competition!  Some folks have referred to the masterpieces as Seldovia’s Outdoor Carving “Museum”!  Most of the carvings are outdoors, under cover and in front of businesses and in parks about town, don’t miss those that are located inside the library, museum and Multi-purpose room!  If you look at photo blogs from Seldovia, you will note that the majority of the photographers have found that our carvings are one of the most photographed items in Seldovia!  The otters, the slough homes and the carvings are the symbols representing our community!

Ben and Silas Firth working together on the seal.  Photo by Sonny Chissus

Ben and Silas Firth working together on the seal. Photo by Sonny Chissus

If you are a Chamber of Commerce member, and are interested in hosting one of the carvings at your place of business – please feel free to contact one of the Chainsaw Committee members for consideration.  We have our 2014 carvings to place as well as a few others that will be relocated this year.

Obviously, none of this could happen without the huge financial, physical and volunteer support from so many individuals, organizations and businesses in Seldovia! A Huge thank you goes out to the Seldovia Chamber of Commerce for believing in, and sponsoring this fantastic event.  The whole purpose of the competition is to bring new people to town to stay in our hotels and B&Bs, eat in our restaurants and to add beauty to our community!  This was one more reason for folks to choose Seldovia as their vacation destination!  There has been a ton of support and interest in the competition as well as the beauty it provides the whole community year-round!   As you can see from this long list of sponsors, there are many folks generously giving of time, energy and finances to bring this event to Seldovia and make it a success!


We want to extend a very appreciative thank you to our 1st Platinum Sponsor, Conoco Phillips, who was our top sponsor of the event this year.  We are working with them as they are in the sponsorship position to select a carving of their choice from the competition to place in their corporate office!  We will let you know when that is decided!

We couldn’t do this competition without our GOLD Sponsors – the Swisher Family and Hopkins Brothers Construction – who procured these fabulous logs for the competition.  Without their generous donation and effort to transport these great logs to our site – this competition wouldn’t happen!  Thank you!
Jim Samudosky working on the wolf at the top of the carving. Photo by Sonny Chissus

Jim Samudosky working on the wolf at the top of the carving. Photo by Sonny Chissus

To the following Silver Sponsors who donated at least $1,000, in cash or in-kind: AeroTech LLC, Alaska Air Taxi, City of Seldovia,  Elitewood Cabinets, Seldovia Fishing Adventures, Seldovia Chamber of Commerce,  Seldovia Property and Winter Watch.  Thank you for your very generous donations and assistance with this event!

To our fabulous Bronze Sponsors – who donated $500 or more to our event either in cash or in-kind:  Alaska Marine Highway System, The Seldovia Native Association, The Seldovia Village Tribe and Spenard Builder’s Supply! We are so grateful for your support of our event, recognizing that it is a worthwhile and asset to our community!
We want to thank OUR MANY GENEROUS COMMUNITY SPONSORS, to those who hosted a meal:  Byron and Margie McCord who provided breakfast every morning for the carvers and their families, Linwood Bar and Grill, Perry’s Cafe, Bridgekeeper’s Inn, Indian Valley Meats and Suzie and Jerry Stranik.  The two new carvers to our competition, Chris and Jeff were totally impressed with the royal treatment they received at our event!  They were usually offered hotdogs and hamburgers at other competitions, and in Seldovia they enjoyed a home cooked breakfast each morning, delicious pot roast lunch, gourmet hotdogs, fresh halibut dinner and a glorious community potluck!  The carvers were very well fed!  Thank you!
Derrick working on his majestic raven.  Photo by Liane Crosta

Derrick working on his majestic raven. Photo by Liane Crosta

We appreciate the community for their support and excitement in hosting the carvers and their families.  Thank you to Tobben and Tanya Spurkland, Dick and Sammie Reason, Cory and Dawhn Bodyfelt, Brent and Raewyn Weyer with Seldovia Fishing Adventures and Mike and Nicola Holman who generously offered their homes and rooms to host our carvers this year!

Thank you again to the City of Seldovia for the use of this spectacular location and for the ongoing support in the set up and breakdown of the site!
Without ALL of your financial, in-kind and Physical support – this couldn’t come together so beautifully!  We appreciate the following individuals or businesses that gave generously for the auctions or donated in a financial way!  Alaska Airlines, Alaska USA, Bear Creek Winery, The Boardwalk Hotel, Captain’s Coffee, Central Charters, Central Suites of Seldovia, Crabpot Grocery, Dancing Eagles, Homer Electric Association, Homer Brewery, Kachemak Gear Shed, Mike Sage, Smokey Bay Air and Thyme on the Boardwalk!
Rob putting finishing touches on his Raven God.  Photo by Sonny Chissus

Rob putting finishing touches on his Raven God. Photo by Sonny Chissus

I also have to acknowledge the most AWESOME Committee ever – that truly pulled together to bring this great event to you this year.  Unfortunately, due to a family emergency, I had to fly out of Seldovia on the 1st day of the event, leaving the committee to manage the weekend without me.  Thankfully, I have an incredible husband, Paul “Sonny” Chissus, who loves the Chainsaw Competition as much as I do, and we have a committee of fantastic individuals:  Chris and Liane Crosta, Byron and Margie McCord and Suzie Stranik – who made it all come together!

Chris carving the details on his yellow eye fish.  Photo by Liane Crosta

Chris carving the details on his yellow eye fish. Photo by Liane Crosta

Thank you to my in-laws, Paul and Ginny Chissus who rallied even more volunteers (Carolyn, Cathy, Harmony & Jan) to assist with the auctions and registration for the Mini Marathon as well as helped out in any other way that came about!  Thanks for jumping in and doing whatever needed to be done to make things happen! We totally appreciate Tobben Spurkland who added his experience and professionalism to our 1st annual Mini Marathon!   And to the Crosta family, including Bryce and  Lindsey who helped mark the course and monitor the marathon!  Thank you to Mike Webber and Mark Wegner who assisted on the site and helped Sonny with the logistics and details of running such a busy event!

I know there were additional helpers this weekend – and  I don’t want to leave anyone out, we so appreciate ALL of you!  Thank you! Thank you!  Thank you! You are what make this event incredible – just ask the carvers – I think they understand best the amount of work, planning and generosity required to make a successful competition.

Thank you so much to Chris and Liane Crosta who took great photos of the event – please enjoy their slideshow below!

Two of the Crew! Photo by Liane Crosta

Two of the Crew! Photo by Liane Crosta

To the carvers – Ben, Chris, Derrick, Jeff, and Rob – THANK YOU for being a part of our 9th Annual Craft Invitational Chainsaw Carving Competition!  You guys are AMAZING, and we are thrilled to host you and your families!  We are so fortunate to have your masterpieces become a part of our Seldovia Community!  To Chris and Jeff, who took a chance – and flew all the way from Washington and Oregon to be a part of this small community event!  We hope you have enjoyed your time in Seldovia, and that you could feel our appreciation and enjoy the small-town hospitality and exceptional working environment!!   Isn’t this the MOST BEAUTIFUL setting for a competition you’ve ever seen?  We hope that you will consider competing in our event in the future and bringing your families!

Thank you to our Judges for the competition this  year:  Jeremiah Campbell, Toby and Elaine Craft, Alan Haskins, Ed Packer and Brian Slover – we appreciate your time and expertise in the area of art, beauty and/or wood working!
Start of the Mini Marathon - photo by Chris Crosta

Start of the Mini Marathon – photo by Chris Crosta

chips button-2This year we added two extra “events” to the weekend to raise funds for our competition!  The first was the daily auctions, with gifts from local businesses – which was fantastic, and the generous winners got some great deals while supporting the competition!  Then we had our 1st Annual Seldovia End of Summer Mini Marathon!   Thanks again to Tobben for helping in a HUGE way to make the race a success.  We were impressed with the turn out for the End of Summer Mini Marathon, as we had 22 participants – mostly from Jen and Keith’s wedding party!
  • In the women’s division, Naomi Gallien came in first place, with Jennifer Giles (Swick) in second, and Cola Lewis bringing up 3rd place.
  • In the men’s category, Jeff Swick took 1st, Bryan Chartier with 2nd and Keith Swick came in 3rd.
  • In the Senior division, Ed Packer took 1st place, and Margie and Byron McCord came in tied for 2nd.
  • There was only one runner for the 10K this year – so Lars Spurkland won 1st place (that was easy!) – but I have to mention that he didn’t come in last overall  due to the double distance – he crossed the finish line before 9 of the 5K competitors!  Great job Lars!
  • We did have a Red Lantern Award – which honors the last person to cross the finish line – and that went to Crystal and Courtney Collier!


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Category: Community, Sports

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