LINCOLN — Art means different things to different people, and so do tools. For example, a chainsaw might be something that destroys wood or inspires movie franchises, but in the right skilled hands, it can create things of beauty. That artistry is on full display during the Sam’s Blackfoot Valley Chainsaw Competition.
It may sound and look like chaos, but beneath the noise and sawdust are bears, hummingbirds, horses and much more.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, carvers from all across the northwest will be in the parking lot of Lambkins – putting on a show and selling off their pieces to raise money for the Sam’s Hope Foundation.The organization was founded in 2012 by Lincoln residents to honor Rolland “Sam” Kolve, a teen who passed from cancer. The foundation helps families battling childhood cancer and others in need in the Lincoln community.
This is the first year of the chainsaw carving event. Organizer Valeria Clark told says they didn’t know what to expect but – not surprisingly – the Lincoln community jumped at the chance to help sponsor the event and bring in these talented lumberjacks.
“They are feeding them every day"," Clark told MTN. "They’ve helped us to pay for them, their gas to come in and their lodging. Everybody that you see on this street is basically [a] sponsor. The community just really came together.”
And it’s not just the Lincoln community – the brotherhood of artists is just as tight-knit. And that’s where Valeria’s husband, Lewis Clark (YES, that is his real name) comes into play.
Clark is a custom carver in Lincoln and knows a lot of these guys from competitions.
“We just wanted to give back," said Lewis Clark. "That’s the main thing. Because the Good Lord blessed me with a good-paying job you know, and I get to do what I love. And I meet some great people. All these carvers, I know them all, they are great people and they do phenomenal work.”
Like Anthony Robinson from Washington, who is relatively new to this group but couldn’t turn down the chance to bring his talent to town.
"I heard the story of the Sam’s Hope Foundation and I was invited by them in Ronan, meet the whole gang from over here, and just really cool people!” an enthusiastic Robinson told us.
Chainsaws, charity and community – a pretty good way to sum up a weekend here in Montana, just ask Robinson.
“Love it, love it! Oh my gosh, You know, I love Washington but I love the people out here, they’re so cool," Robinson said. "I think that everybody in Montana has the attitude of, we can do it. Whatever it is we're going to accomplish it.”
The competition goes all weekend long, with bidding for the pieces to benefit Sam's Hope Foundation taking place on Saturday and Sunday.
For those interested in trying their hand at chainsaw art, the artists we spoke with encourage folk to give it a try. My piece didn't turn out so well, but there's no denying how much fun everyone was seeming to have.
Editor's note: MTN's John Riley contributed to this story.