M-F to be abuzz with chain-saw artists

The annual Logs to Frogs competition will be held this weekend.

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Paul Jones works on his logfrog creation Saturday morning during the Logs to Frogs Chainsaw Carving Event held in Milton-Freewater. July 16, 2007

MILTON-FREEWATER -- You can have too many wooden frogs, it would seem.

That was the conclusion reached by organizers for Milton-Freewater's Logs to Frogs annual event.

This year the festivities begin at 8 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday

The chain-saw carving competition that began in 2004 evolved from the city's branding theme of frogs, a take on the renowned -- remember the New York Times fame? -- nickname of "Muddy Frogwater."

Logs the size of small vehicles are turned into frogs, dogs and more with the blending of the traditional art of woodcarving and chain saws that roar with raw power. Spectators watch from bleachers as artists race against the clock or each other's saws.

The competition, which takes place on a gravel lot on Highway 11 across from Express Wash car wash, has attracted many of the top artists in the chain-saw art world. Like artists everywhere, the carvers sell their work after the event.

"We were finding out there was not such a large market for a standalone carved frog," said Gina Hartzheim, city planner.

Organizers decided to ask carvers to ratchet down the amphibians and use frogs as simply one element of the carving, but many of the artists continued to carve large frogs, she recalled, most of them depicted in whimsy.

To be fair, Hartzheim pointed out, "it is called Logs to Frogs. The name suggests there are only frogs."

Yet leaving the entry choices wide open would make for chaotic and uneven judging, she said. "And the carvers, for planning, they like it when there is a theme, a focus."

Focus it is, then. City officials decided to look to Oregon's past and its role in the settling of the area, coming up with the theme of "Wild, Wild West."

That includes components of the horse culture, Hartzheim pointed out. "You can interpret the wild, wild West a lot of different ways."

The hope is this year's new direction will pull in new spectators, she added. "Maybe people looking for pieces for mountain properties."

Chain-saw artists seem to have embraced the fresh take, Hartzheim pointed out. "We now have 13, lucky 13, carvers."

As well, vendors will sell treats, grilled bratwurst and beverages. Milton-Freewater School District cheerleaders will sell root beer floats for a fundraiser.

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