2019 Carvers lined up at the final awards presentation. Photo courtesy KCM International Chainsaw Carving Contest
By Brian Baxter
Once again, the town of Libby, Montana is privileged to host The International Chainsaw Carving Championship this coming Thursday, Sept. 10 through Sunday, Sept. 13. Our quaint small town in the rugged mountains of the extreme northwest corner of the Big Sky Country state is the perfect setting for this event. It is flanked by the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness to the west, the Purcell Mountains and the Yaak River Valley to the north, the Tobacco Valley, Salish and Whitefish Mountains to the east, and to the south lies the David Thompson Chain of Lakes, and the Clark Fork River Valley. Both the chain of lakes and the Clark Fork River Valley are named for early pioneering explorers of great courage. The turquoise colored Kootenai River, named for the noble Kootenai Tribes, sometimes called the “Deer Robe People,” runs through the heart of the town.
This event, is truly becoming know as the International Chainsaw Carving Championship, with carvers like Lkhagvadorj “George” Dorjsuren coming in to participate from Mongolia. It was questionable whether George could make it or not, as he was stuck in Alaska when Covid-19 hit, and has been up there quite a while, but he’s on his way. According to lead organizer Troy Douthit, there were some complex challenges to deal with this year regarding Covid-19. Troy said, “One of the greatest challenges was constantly having to alter our plans, as Covid-19 progressed and the responses to managing it changed, we found ourselves having to plan based on a lot of unknowns.” He explained further, “Would we be able to have the contest, would carvers be able to travel here, would the public even want this to happen, if we do proceed, how will we promote it? Being able to answer all of those questions internally on a weekly basis allowed us to develop a plan and move forward.”
But come they will. Carvers participating this year include Steve Backus, an early organizer brought in by KCM to help get things going, and who deserves a lot of credit for his help. And then there’s Thor. Thor has been carving in the competitive arena since he showed up on the scene in 1999 with his green Poulan chainsaw. Thor has competed in contests in Germany and England, and loves returning to Libby. Alex Pricob can make a saw dance and hails from Romania. Alex is hugged tight and welcomed to the tribe, and his wall carvings, known as the Great Wall of Alex, are truly exceptional. Steve Higgins is one of the most prolific spewers of bears on earth according to the write ups on these carvers. He entered the carving world at 17 years old, and has won the championship in Libby. Higgins has also traveled extensively in Japan, Europe, Canada, and every corner of America. And Bongos back. Beloved Bongo Love, musician and talented carver is especially interactive in his carving for the public, which can only be described as Performance Art. Girl Power is also represented, and one of the noted women carvers Angie, influences all the ladies to get with the chainsaw carving mode.
Douthit was very grateful to local authorities for their help in working with the organizers to keep this event coming. He said, “The Lincoln County Health Officer was extremely helpful with guidance and insight regarding our crowd management plan. We are very focused on promoting public safety at this event and will to the best of our ability make this event fun, entertaining, and most of all safe as possible.” The event schedule framework includes Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 8 a.m. Masterpiece carving; 10:30 a.m. 90 Minute Quick Carves; 1 p.m. Masterpiece carving, with Sunday’s schedule including the Final Auction and Awards Presentation at 1 p.m.. Carving Thursday through Saturday will go on until 6 p.m., with food vendors present to provide tasty treats and beverages.
Douthit also said, “We do have a couple of unique things this year. To assist in maintaining social distancing, we are asking the audience to move around the event perimeter in a clockwise pattern. The audience can go from carver to carver, watching the amazing pieces of art come to life, and circle right back to the beginning. And an absolutely fantastic development was George being able to come in from Mongolia.” More info is available at www.carvemontana.com, and interested parties can also check out the Kootenai Country Montana International Chainsaw Carving Contest on Facebook. Folks, a lot of people have worked very hard to keep this unique event coming to Libby despite challenging circumstances. Let’s show them our proud logging history, our support, and our hospitality to the international and national communities.
2020-21 School year Begins at Libby Elementary School
By Stacy Bender
Kids roll out of school buses ready to start the 2020-21 school year. Photo by Stacy Bender, The Montanian.
Students at Libby Elementary School fell soundly in step with new routines and guidelines set forth before them as the new schoolyear kicked-off this past week. “Our staff was excited to have our kids back in the building,” said LES Vice-Principal, Andrew Stiger, “and our students have quickly adapted to the additional health guidelines now in place for everyone.”
“This year we added what we call the 3 W’s: Wash your hands, Wear your mask, and Watch your distance,” Stiger continued. Additional sanitizer dispensers and hand-washing stations have been installed throughout the school building to help in adhering to the trifecta of cleanliness.
Social distancing between students who naturally crave physical contact with one another was identified as one of the biggest challenges to overcome. “Yet our teachers have been clever in their guidance. Students have been spotted reconnecting with one another through air hugs, elbow bumps, and even smiling with your eyes.”
“As we have come to know since March of this past year,” said Stiger, “the time we have with the kids is precious, and we have to make the most of it each and every time we are together. While much of this first week was spent jumping through new hoops, it was still refreshing to have our students back in the building and moving forward again.”
As 2020 Logger athletics launch, LES Lumber Jacks gear-up for their future
By Stacy Bender
Assistant Coach, Matt Roberts, helps two Lumberjack football players in properly fitting their helmets this past Friday in preparation for practice which was slated to begin this week Photo by Stacy Bender, The Montanian
Over fifty 5th and 6th grade students at Libby Elementary School lined the pavement outside the Lumberjack’s locker room door on Friday, August 28, awaiting the issuance of shoulder pads, game pants and helmets for the pending practice season.
“We have a definite increase in participation this year,” shared Lumberjack Head Coach, Doug DeShazer. “I believe the kids are really missing the comradery, challenges, and rewards that football can provide.” Having played as young Lumberjack himself, DeShazer went on to become a future member of Logger Football Alumni and this week will mark his seventh year returning as a coach to mentor the young starters.
“So many teachers, parents and other coaches have stepped in over the years to support this program,” said DeShazer. “I believe this program is a vital part of the overall success for our future athletes, as the first thing it teaches players is that they students first. ‘If they don’t make the grades, they don’t play.’ It’s a hard lesson to learn, but an important one.”
Deshazer, along with fellow assistant coaches Jason Sunell and Matt Roberts, are ready to lead the Lumberjacks into their new season of repetitive drills and play while setting strategic plays for teamwork, improved concentration, individual confidence, resilience and communication skills into forward motion.
The fifth and sixth grade teams will take to the practice field this week. “This year, it is up in the air for how long we will be able to practice and compete. I told the players and parents we are going to do as much as we can to take advantage of the time we are allotted,” added DeShazer.
If all goes as planned, the first home appearance for the Lumberjack players will take place at the Libby Elementary Football Field on Saturday, September 26. Yet no matter what the season holds in store, this Lumberjack team is poised and prepared to tackle the work towards becoming future Logger athletes