While the event is still on the other side of summer, the people behind the the Kootenai Country Montana International Chainsaw Carving Championship are busy planning and working hard to make this year’s event a success.
There is one big change planned for this year. The carving competition is going to move earlier in the month — running from Thursday, Sept. 12 through Sunday, Sept. 15 — in order to coincide with Nordicfest.
“Nordicfest is a really important event, and, as far as Libby’s heritage goes, it matters a lot for the community,” said Troy Douthit, who along with Melissa Cady is at the forefront of organizing this year’s competition.
Douthit said that their hope is for the chainsaw carving event to help boost Nordicfest, but that having the festival just down the street will also give people something more to do if they feel like taking a break from watching the carving.
“That’s why we think they’ll compliment each other really well,” he said.
Cady said that there is no planned thematic change to the chainsaw competition to match with Nordicfest, but that carvers have done things such as vikings and large swords in the past.
“We’re going to help promote Nordicfest in all the things we do,” Douthit said. “But we didn’t want to combine events, because we don’t want what we’re doing to seem like it’s taking them over in any way.”
However, Cady added that if any of their carvers are inspired by the festival, they would be welcome to honor local traditions in their own way with their carving.
“That would be amazing,” Douthit said. The organizers just don’t want to limit their carvers by boxing them into a theme.
In terms of coordination, Cady said that they are going to make sure that nothing about their setup interferes with the Nordicfest parade.
She said they are also being mindful that the food choices they bring in complement those available at Nordicfest without taking business away from them.
They are also seeking and receiving feedback from downtown business owners regarding how they set up on Mineral Avenue, in order to make sure they add to the business of local stores rather than interfering with it in any way, Douthit said.
Some of the business owners have said they are concerned about access to their business during the event, Douthit said.
“That would defeat the whole purpose of what we’re doing,” he said. “Our whole point is to try to get people down to see what the businesses are on Mineral Avenue, and for it to be a benefit.”
They plan to change the layout of the event from previous years, though they don’t know what that will look like yet, he said. They still need to figure out the minimum space their carvers will need in order to work.
“And we want it to be easy, too, as far as the public,” Cady said. Part of that is for the public to be easily able to access and engage with the carvers.
Along those lines, they also plan to once again have a meet-and-greet with carvers on Saturday at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1548, which will take place in the large hall in back and be open and inviting to families and children, she said.
The decision will be hamde on who those carvers will be by Thursday, March 1, Douthit said. While last year’s winners had a guarantee of one of the 20 spots, everyone else had to reapply.
Cady said that they have been flooded with interest from all around the globe once again.
Along with bringing people from all over the to Libby, Douthit emphasized that promoting Libby on an international stage speaks to the whole reason behind the event.
“We want to show them what a special place we have, and let them enjoy Libby,” he said. “The hope is they come see this event, and they want to come back -- and they want to stay and they want to play and they want to shop local businesses.
“In the end, that’s the goal, is to make Libby better,” he said.
But without all the support from community members -- both from the named sponsors and those who prefer to stay out of the spotlight -- it wouldn’t be possible, Cady and Douthit agreed. They said they are grateful for that support.
Along with growing the event and promoting it, Douthit put in a plug for nominations to the Montana Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Recreation Event of the Year award.
The chainsaw competition has already been nominated, he said, but having more people nominate would help to set them apart from the competition.